11:53 Oct. 7, 2016
Ukrainian political expert Alexander Khara on corruption and tax scandals in US, Russia, and transparency in politics as a distinguishing point
Hillary Clinton's successful tactic of making her rival defend his tax returns has spilled over into the vice president candidates' debate as well. And it seems that the democrats get the score.
It's not just the fact that Donald Trump is unwilling to make his financial statements public by putting forward preconditions that are impossible to fulfil (he expressed his readiness to do so if the former State Secretary would make available 30 thousands deleted e-mails!) but also his rhetoric of being smart enough not to pay taxes for almost two decades.
In Ukraine and neighbouring Russia, it's sort of a custom not to pay taxes at all. Moreover, it's common to get rich by securing privileged access to the public finances. Recently, Alexey Navalny, a Russian politician, made public several journalist anticorruption investigations of President Putin's closest circle's luxury lifestyle. They include sumptuous estates, private jets and yachts of Prime minister Dmitry Medvedev, presidential chief cook and master of the Kremlin's trolls Eugen Prigozhyn, lately closest presidential crony Igor Sechin and others.
Though 72% of the Russians believe corruption is a typical phenomenon of a dysfunctional state almost 80% of citizens think it's unlikely that mass protest against the deteriorating living standards and rising unemployment could occur.
Ukraine is a different story. The anticorruption is the buzz word here for the majority of its citizens consider corruption as the major national security threat. There has been some success in establishing anticorruption bodies and mending its related legislation, particularly the law on electronic tax declarations. But it was not without huge resistance from those who are scared to show their tremendous assets not compatible with the extremely modest incomes of civil servants and members of the Parliament. It happened that the software hasn't been properly certified by the governmental agency. With a wave of public anger and a certain rebuke from its Western partners that made the system up and running. It has already triggered the exodus of some 400 judges who are refusing to submit their tax declarations with a hefty list of properties…
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Yet the Empire (Ukrainian establishment) strikes back with the attempts to make some loopholes in the legislation. There are at least two drafts of one law that could compromise the integrity of the just launched system. And again caused strong public campaign to counter the derailing efforts of the badly needed process for Ukraine.
As Benjamin Franklin, one of the founding fathers of the United States, said that "In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes". So in a month time we will see whether the issue of taxes could cause Donald Trump's political death.
Anyway, it's crucially important that in Ukraine, like in the US, the issues of integrity and transparency in politics and day to day life are of great importance. And it is something that distinguish us from our northern neighbour. Perhaps, it's something that explains one of the major reasons of the Putin's war against Ukraine.