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Saturday, February 23, 2008

No King Left Behind (Without a Castle)

If you don’t believe in affordable housing, this story of success will ruin your skepticism.

Ukrayinska Pravda has a tapestry of fantastic quotes from Yanukovych’s recent interview on the BBC’s Ukrainian Service. Among other things, the interview zeroed in on the state residence at Mezhyhirya, the humble abode built with taxpayers’ money, which Yanukovych intends to keep.

On this estate, there's a small patch of land, about half a hectare, on which there's a house of 250 square meters, no more than that. I’ve lived in this house since 2006, ever since President Yushchenko signed the related decree into law.

That’s one hell of a humble abode, and a mighty generous decree!

Once the house was granted to me by the decree, I, in cooperation with the State Affairs Directorate, renovated it to make it suitable for habitation. I invested my money in it.

What “money” did you invest in it, given your public income statement of 38,036.89 hryvnias ($7,532) for the year 2005?

After Mezhyhirya was privatized by this firm — I don’t recall their name — I signed a rental agreement with them.

What a selective amnesia case. But wait a minute, you mean Tetyana Chornovil’s story was actually not-so-unfounded? What a relief for her!

Initially, I was bargaining for the opportunity to buy out this property. They quoted a price that I — let’s just say — couldn’t agree with. They promised to perform an independent valuation, and I offered them to contact my lawyer, but they still haven’t provided me with the findings of this evaluation.

You don’t remember the asking price either, right?

And I stick around. That's not exactly what I want, as is all the talk surrounding this, as is the rent — I pay 11,000 hryvnias a month. But it so happened that I’ve lived on this estate since 1999 or 2000. My grand son grew up here. I occupy this house on legal grounds.

$2,200 a month for a 250 sq m mansion? You’re a lucky guy! In Kyiv, people shell out $500-600 a month for a no-frills single-room apartment. Even if "their" asking price for the house was a little too rich for your blood, the rent you pay sounds like the best deal in town!

Nobody was interested in this estate. Huge government funds were spent on its maintenance and security. It wasn’t cost-efficient. My opinion on such issues: Decisions have to be made. We should keep a small number of state residences. As for the remaining dachas, we shouldn’t have them. They should be sold, privatized. That will be cost-efficient.

Yeah, it breaks my heart when I think of all the rusty-dusty state residences sitting idle across the country, waiting to be privatized. They’re such a liability for the public. I wish we had more people like you, who have the guts to cut the costs of government in Ukraine.

Here’s a clear-cut case for cost-efficiency. In the name of stability and prosperity, may every public official be allowed to privatize his or her state residence at a discount price. Just name it and claim it!


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