Why Verkhovna Rada left Ukrainians in occupied Donbas without pensions?
Ukraine’s parliament was unable to amend the legislation regarding payment of pensions to IDPs, as well as to residents of certain areas of Donetsk, Luhansk regions, and Crimea that are not controlled by Ukraine
Ukraine’s Verkhovna Rada was unable to amend the legislation regarding payment of pensions to IDPs, as well as to residents of certain areas of Donetsk, Luhansk regions, and Crimea that are not controlled by Ukraine. This issue was put to the vote on 5 February. We are talking about two similar bills, considered on the same day. The first is draft No. 2083 dated September 6, 2019, “On Amending Certain Laws of Ukraine Regarding the Right to Pensions for Certain Categories of Citizens.” It was initiated exclusively by representatives of the Opposition Platform – For Life faction. This project was rejected almost immediately. Obviously, proposals from the opposition are ignored by the ruling party by default. An alternative bill No. 2083d of November 26, 2019, “On Amending Certain Laws of Ukraine Concerning the Exercise of the Right to Retire,” was immediately brought up for discussion. This project appeared already with the filing of MP from the Servant of the People party Halyna Tretyakova. This time, representatives of various factions worked on the project, including Natalya Korolevska, who represented Opposition Platform – For Life. By the way, the alternative bill was surprisingly very similar to the one for which they did not vote. In fact, the bill rejected from the opposition formed the basis of the alternative, it was simply supplemented and detailed. This gave a chance for a closer look before the vote.
What was offered? Key innovations are as follows. Firstly, the opportunity for residents of uncontrolled territories to come and freely receive a pension in Ukraine without presenting the IDP card (in order to simplify the procedure for applying for receiving Ukrainian pension). However, the bill still contains a clause on the humiliating identification procedure and that the Cabinet of Ministers will have to approve a new procedure for its passage. Thus, the problem may still remain unresolved.
Secondly, it was assumed that IDPs would be able to obtain debts on lost pensions for the last time. Now, according to the law, a pension might be returned in no more than three years (if a person had the right to obtain it, but did not receive it). But some pensioners living on the other side of the demarcation line have not received Ukrainian pensions for the sixth year already. Thus, the restriction on the payment of lost pension for the previous three years was proposed to be removed.
Thirdly, the project provides for the possibility before acquiring a pension in the controlled territory to purchase the missing experience at a discount. Now for people of pre-retirement age in Ukraine, there is an opportunity to buy up the length of employment if for some reason the total length of employment is not enough (for example, a person worked informally and did not pay contributions to the Pension Fund). Suppose someone worked in Donetsk until 2019, and then he wanted to move to live with his relatives on Ukraine-controlled territory. The length of employment in Donetsk (from 2014 to 2019) will not be legally counted. In this case, it is proposed to purchase this experience on more favorable terms than prescribed by the current law. However, the issue of the legalization of documents received in uncontrolled territories in the indicated years still remains unresolved.
Fourthly, it is proposed to simplify the processing of pensions in the bodies of the Pension Fund of Ukraine in terms of paperwork. For example, use data on seniority and salary from the personified accounting system, contained in the pre-war period. However, this will in no way return length of employment to people after 2014.
One way or another, the majority did not vote for this alternative project either. Unlike the first version of the project, which was hacked right away, this one was at least sent back for revision to the profile committee.
The discussion of this bill before the vote was indicative. Of course, it was supported by the head of the relevant committee, Halyna Tretiakova from Servant of the People faction. The representatives of the Opposition Platform – For Life and Batkivshchyna of Yulia Tymoshenko, as well as some independent MPs clearly supported the bill. The main argument for the adoption of this project was that people earned their pension in Ukraine and have every right to receive it, that the state should take care of all its citizens, regardless of their place of residence. It was also emphasized that the adoption of such a document would be another step on the road to the reintegration of Donbas and would help to return not only the uncontrolled territories but also the people living there.
At the same time, representatives of Holos and European Solidarity of Petro Poroshenko announced that the payment of pensions to these categories of citizens would become an unbearable burden for the state, moreover, it is Russia that should pay the pension to these people. The idea was voiced that billions of debts owed to residents of uncontrolled territories would be better paid to Ukrainian pensioners, thereby virtually not recognizing residents of certain areas of Donetsk and Luhansk regions, as well as some Crimean residents as Ukrainian citizens. After such rhetoric, it seemed that representatives of these factions are generally ready to recognize Donbas and Crimea as part of Russia and abandon these territories and their inhabitants. But we were even more unpleasantly surprised by the statement of MP from the Servant of the People faction Yelyzaveta Bogutska. Before the vote, she literally stated that we cannot pay pensions to these pensioners because we don’t know what their political views are. The government representative, the deputy finance minister, Yuriy Dzhygir, simply stated that there was no money in the budget for the implementation of this bill.
On the one hand, this may again indicate inconsistency in the Servant of the People party, when one MP from this faction puts the project to the vote and asks his colleagues to support him, while other members of the same party sabotage this initiative. But, on the other hand, all this was more like a performance. It seems to have carefully raised the question of residents of uncontrolled territories, of migrants, of pensions, held heated debates, expressed good intentions, and then voted against and postponed the solution to the problem for a long time under the pretext of revision. That is, no improvement in terms of pensions for immigrants and residents of uncontrolled territories is to be expected.