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doctor of political science, professor,
Director of the Institute of International Relations
Current Social and Economic Situation in Ukraine
Crisis seems to hit Ukrainians harder than other European nations. Slow economic development, negative general trends bring pessimism and uncertainty. Key indicators of public life show that improvements in political, economic and demographic situation are vital for the country, however, today’s reformation agenda is ambiguous and complicated.
To the current state of affairs contribute both structural factors and run-of-the-mill solutions of social problems. Among the former are the general shape of major social structures of the country as well as influence from outside. This combination determines life pattern of every Ukrainian. Economic problems, corruption, low government efficiency are among the principle characteristics of the current situation as seen by country’s citizens. Ukraine faces serious challenges and meeting them is the country’s highest priority. Tasks to be undertaken comprise optimization of political structure, ensuring effective cooperation between branches of power, enacting constitutional principles, maintaining political stability and safeguarding democracy.
Ukraine needs a range of effective instruments to protect its vital interests among which are active trade unions and public institutions. Developed non-government organizations must become an alternative replacing violence and offering productive means of settling social contradictions. Ineffective judiciary makes the situation even more complicated – courts badly need reforming to become a reliable tool of citizens’ rights protection.
Economic expectations are among the key factors determining today’s public attitude – economic situation remains popular target of social criticism. Unresolved structural problems in country’s economy aggravate hardships caused by the crisis adding new risks and making Ukrainian society especially vulnerable. In their turn, economic problems aggravate social conflicts, deepening social stratification and adding to general instability.
Major macroeconomic indicators also define current social situation. Last year GDP growth was over 4 % which is correspondent with the average growth rate of dynamic economies and evidently much better than almost 15% GDP decline in 2009. At the same time Ukraine has one of the lowest GDP per capita in Europe (a little higher than $6700).
Global financial crisis hit Ukrainian economy hard. Starting from mid-2009 inflation got frozen at 8%. Unemployment grew to almost 9% Kyiv region being the leader.
Modernization and improving competitiveness of country economy are difficult but vitally important tasks. Only competitive economy is capable of providing European standards in public life and guaranteeing human rights protection. Key social standards and guarantees of income (subsistence level, minimal wage and pension, unemployment benefit and child care subsidy) are constantly growing, but growth rate is still too low. About 30% of Ukrainians live below poverty line (It is an immediate threat to country’s security) whereas average monthly pay amounts to app. $ 320. The problem of wage arrears is still unresolved. Economic situation is hard indeed for about 13 mln. retirees, major part of whom has no other income. Besides the ratio of pensioners to hired workers in Ukraine is 1.14 being one of the worst in Europe. This makes the issue of pension reform more urgent. The society is polarized along the level of income – luxury and super-profits are at one pole, poverty and low living standards - at another. This situation triggers social tension, feeds protest feelings being an acid test of social problems.
For many years demographic situation in the country also remains complicated. Due to falling birth rate population continues to decrease in number and average age is growing (Ukraine is one of the most “aged” countries in the world). Life expectance, however, is also decreasing.
Existing situation aggravates chronic problems in key social systems, such as health care, education, legal systems and various systems of social cooperation and partnership. It creates additional tensions, negatively affects social climate.
Difficult social situation and high expectations of Ukrainians define foreign policy of the country. Ability to cope with citizens problems, a broad range of them becomes a measure of policy success. Under such conditions one badly needs pragmatism in foreign policy.
Maximum contribution into the solution of economic problems should form the basis of country’s foreign policy alongside with efforts to create favorable environment for the realization of strategic interests of the state. Under such conditions European choice is seen as an optimal strategy which allows to adapt political, legal and administrative systems to the highest standards.
At the same time foreign policy of a modern state is also entitled to resolve another problem, i. e. that of providing opportunities to control the situations of interdependence. Interweaving foreign and domestic policy in globalized world, active economic cooperation, regional security issues – all this dictates the need to use in foreign policy the instruments of multilateral cooperation, of international regimes and organizations, thus making foreign affairs flexible and dynamic.
Social challenges on today’s agenda define major directions of domestic reforms determining at the same time key priorities of foreign affairs. Pragmatic and dynamic foreign policy is a reliable backup of domestic social reforms.
|Valery Kopiyka, doctor of political science, professor, Director of the Institute of International Relations Current Social and Economic Situation in Ukraine||Glushchenko V. V., Doctor of Economic Science, Professor|
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