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Ukraine Unexplored

The 24th of August this year will mark the 30th anniversary of the Ukrainian Supreme Soviet declaring its independence from the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). For over 30 years the Ukrainian people and the economy have suffered massively from the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century. This article aims to highlight the absolute nightmare that has transpired upon Ukraine and compare it to the Soviet period. It is imperative to note that this article in no way is an attack on Ukraine or it's people, rather it is a scathing critique of the economic and political system that has and continues to plague Ukraine to this very day. This rotten neoliberal system has robbed the Ukrainian people of their basic needs, such as food, shelter and clothing.

The Economy

The first and easiest place to begin will be the Ukrainian economy. As of 2015, Ukraine's Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is at an appalling 60% of its former Soviet period. 60% after 30 years! Under socialism, Ukraine was a highly industrialized nation, with virtually no illiteracy, unemployment and poverty. It produced and constructed multiple nuclear power plants, computers and supercomputers,global exports such as finished metal products, agricultural goods etc and transport vehicles. Along with this, it also provided its citizens with high quality housing, education and medical care.

Comparing that to modern day Ukraine, whose major exports are semi finished products of iron, corn and sunflower seeds and wheat. It is also imperative to note here that these products here are non competitive in the global market, with countries preferring cheaper products from South East and Central Asia.

In general, the Ukrainian economy has seen the same years of negative economic growth (11) as compared to those with positive economic growth (11) from 1990 to 2011. However from the graph and the table below, it is clearly shown that the negative growth far exceeds the positive.

A few years have seen a decent positive growth, but this is negated for the years where the negative growth rate fell drastically to around -10 to -15%.

Furthermore, housing construction in Ukraine since the Soviet period has been extremely low as compared to other regions where the whole of Ukraine, despite being thrice the size of neighbouring regions and almost four times the population, had almost the same level of housing construction undertaken. This is not by an even distribution either, with most of the construction taking place in the capital of Kiev and practically nothing in the western regions.

Another interesting point to note is that, the current car ownership of Ukraine is much lower than that of the Soviet period of the 1970's to 1990, despite the fact that the USSR was notoriously famous for having a very tedious process for car ownership. The Ukrainian debt to GDP ratio currently stands at around 70-80% of its GDP. As per the World Bank, a ratio of 60% is considered dangerously high for developing nations. Ukraine breaks this threshold by quite a fair margin.

This begs the question. Why have financial institutions such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) not been harsher on Ukraine's sinking economy and crisis? The answer is because of its strategic location, the United States of America uses Ukraine as a pawn to exert its influence in Eastern Europe. These institutions under the command of the US, have eased up on Ukraine for this very reason. One must wonder what would be the scenario in Ukraine if not for leniency of these institutions. There are many more issues such as the impact of austerity measures on the people, the rampant corruption in Ukraine that would even bring a Nigerian Prince to shame and the unemployment rate. But these issues are too large to be covered here and it would be an injustice to not explore these problems in depth.

The Demographics and social issues

The next topic to talk about is the demographics of the country. The best way to put it is saying that Ukraine is currently in a demographic crisis. There has been a plummeting in the birth rates and a massive hike in the death rates. It is no coincidence that these numbers shot out of control after 1991. These are traditional signs of poverty and crumbling health infrastructure in a nation.

Since 1990, the population has been in a free fall and every year since has seen a steady drop in the population. Ukraine has one of the world's fastest declining populations in the world. From 1991 to 2001, the population had declined by a staggering three million people or about 5.7% of the population. Life expectancy too continues to tumble due to causes of pollution, bad diets, poor healthcare and alcohol and drug addiction.

Speaking of addiction and poor healthcare, Ukraine apparently has a free healthcare system. But the biggest problem here is that the services are so terrible and coupled with a complete lack of medicines, the system is practically useless. Private clinics which provide better treatment are simply inaccessible to the majority of the population due to the fact that nearly 60% of the population lived below the poverty line as per the M.V Ptukha Institute of Demography and Social Surveys, the national academy of science in Ukraine. Only 30% of children in Ukraine are fully immunized against measles, 10% against hepatitis B and 3% against diphtheria and pertussis. Ukraine also has the lowest immunization rate in the whole world as of 2015. Additionally Ukraine has been highly affected by the HIV virus, with many of its regions even having over 300 cases in a year. Sadly the biggest cause of this epidemic is not sexual transmission but rather the use of syringes for drugs. The largest mode of transmission of HIV in Ukraine as of 2007, is through the use of injections for drug use followed by sexual transmission.

To conclude, what is currently going on in Ukraine is a travesty to humanity. From being a great, socialist nation and providing for its citizens, to now becoming a den of illegal activities and misery Ukraine has taken a great leap backwards. Perhaps why it would not surprise most readers that more than 60% of Ukrainians feel that they were better off under socialism.

Note : all the data from the tables and graphs are from the Ukrainian government or the IMF or World Bank.

Nathan Lobow
Writing Mentorship 2021

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