Zelensky urges to reduce heating tariffs after his rating plunges
After his approval rating took a 12-point hit in one month, President Volodymyr Zelensky appeared to go into a damage-control mode.
On Nov. 30, Zelensky urged the government to find a way to cut the heating tariffs for Ukrainian households – and moreover, to do it immediately.
Utility tariffs, especially prices for gas and central heating, are among the most sensitive topics for Ukrainians. According to a Nov. 27 poll by the Kyiv International Institute of Sociology, 14 percent of Ukrainians spend more than half of their income on utilities.
The same poll showed that Zelensky’s approval rating went from 64 to 52 percent in November, showing a 12-point fall in one month. It is a 21-point fall from his highest approval rating of 73 percent in September. He isn’t the only one taking a hit. The approval rating of the Cabinet of Ministers also went down by 7 points in November, going from 44 to 37 percent.
In the same poll, 75 percent of Ukrainians said that the government hasn’t been successful with reducing household utility tariffs. Zelensky responded to it on Nov. 30, posting a video from a meeting with top officials where they discuss heating tariffs.
In the five-minute video, Zelensky presides over a meeting with Prime Minister Oleksiy Honcharuk, the head of Zelensky’s administration Andriy Bohdan, his deputy Yulia Kovaliv, Energy Minister Oleksiy Orzhel, and energy expert Yevhen Chervyachenko.
In the video, Honcharuk pitches to Zelensky his plan to reduce the heating tariffs by the winter of 2020-2021, while Zelensky demands it is done this December.
“At the end of December people should receive the bills for heating with already reduced tariffs,” Zelensky says in the video.
Others weren’t sure it was possible.
Chervyachenko is shown saying it is impossible to change tariffs until May 2020 without changing the law, as there are some old contracts valid until that time.
Honcharuk was more optimistic, saying that the government drafted “a short bill” that would reduce the heating prices by 10-15 percent this winter.
“We have a lower gas price, and the tariff is 80 percent gas price,” Honcharuk says. “If the price is lower, the tariff should be lower too, I must say. A simple idea.”
The video revealed nothing else about this draft law. Honcharuk also noted that this winter, heating tariffs for Ukrainians will not rise, as in the last years, adding that in this regard, they have “protected the consumer.”
He also noted that the new draft law on tariff reduction should be registered on behalf of the president, as it was one of his promises to the people.
Kovaliv was not as optimistic as Honcharuk, saying that the tariff changes should be discussed with the regulator in charge of it, referring to the National Regulatory Commission for Energy and Utilities.
“It is not clear if it (the new draft law) would lead to lower tariffs,” Kovaliv said.