#Commentary of Marina Zheinova on growth of debt for utility payments in Ukraine
In June, a new law on housing and communal services entered into force in Ukraine. Since that moment, the responsibility for the unpaid utility debt of Ukrainian citizens has grown significantly. In particular, a penalty was set for each day of delay in the amount of 0.01% of the total debt. In addition, debtors will be deprived of the right to receive subsidies and be disconnected from the supplied services without resorting to court from the supplier companies.
Another innovation is that citizens will pay for services not only on their metering device. Now the Ukrainians have to cover the difference in the meter readings of an apartment and of a general-house one, since it is now the latter that is considered a commercial metering device. This situation can occur if one of the neighbours has a faulty tap or they try to understate the reading of their device.
It is worth noting that the technique of switching off water or electricity, as well as applying penalties for non-payment, is a fairly common practice in many European countries. There’s no rambling with debtors: if did not pay on time – you get a fine and disconnection from the utilities. These are normal conditions of market relations. After all, housing and communal services are the same product, which, like any other, cannot be free of charge.
Ukraine, or rather its leadership, is trying to keep up with Europe in terms of restoring “justice”. The Ukrainian authorities decided to start with the fact that they are trying to bring tariffs for utilities closer to European ones to the maximum. That is why in the receipts of Ukrainians on payment for light, heat, gas and water, the most “just” amounts now appear. And when these figures exceed the European ones, it will be possible to boldly report to the people that is better in Ukraine than in Europe.
But Ukrainian citizens did not appreciate the aspirations of their leadership, probably because justice and equality did not affect the income of Ukrainian citizens. Disproportionately high tariffs for housing and communal services have caused the debts that have risen to astronomical proportions for supplied water, electricity, and gas. According to the State Statistics Service of Ukraine, for the first half of 2018, the amount of debt for consumed utilities reached 17 billion hryvnia. Ukrainian officials also failed to take into account that the European principles of the housing and communal services system cannot be applied in Ukraine at least for the reason that in Europe competition and not a monopoly, exists in this market.
However, the law is the law, and Ukrainians will have to pay or get used to the absence of such usual benefits as electricity, gas and water. But the unpleasant news on this topic will affect the Ukrainian government too. It will soon have to come up with a theory that the approaching communal blackout is a blessing for the Ukrainian nation.
Marina Zheinova, the DPR People’s Council deputy