On September 25, 2017, at 10.00, a public lecture “Legality for Legislators” was held at the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine (18/2 Hrushevskyi St.).
Lecturer: Oksana Syroid, Deputy Speaker of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine.
More than 40 participants took part in the event: students of Kyiv universities (National University of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy, Borys Grinchenko Kyiv University, National Pedagogical Dragomanov University), graduates of the Verkhovna Rada Internship Program, MPs’ aids, and representatives of NGOs.
Tetiana BIBIK, Deputy Director of the USAID RADA Program: Responsible Accountable Democratic Assembly, outlined the opportunities provided by the RADA Youth Program, focusing on the tools and mechanisms of the Program that promote parliamentary reform, such as the service of electronic petitions, the portal for public discussion of draft laws, the internship program in the Verkhovna Rada as well as educational components for youth.
Oleksandr ZASLAVSKYI, Deputy Chairman of the Board of the Agency for Legislative Initiatives, emphasized the following:
“Disseminating information on the activities of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine and the Government, as well as on available mechanisms for communication of civil society and authorities, we are trying to strengthen the public control over these institutions by increasing the monitoring capacity of NGOs and active youth. It is necessary to do this because the not-so-pleasant image of the government created in the media due to the statements and actions of some politicians dramatically diminishes trust in the authorities. However, people who represent the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine, VRU secretariat, committees, and committee secretariats do not deserve such a low level of trust. This is exactly why we organize such events in order to raise awareness about what is actually happening in the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine.”
Oksana SYROYID, Deputy Speaker of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine
Why do people unite in states?
The state emerges as a social contract between people in order to protect three fundamental rights: life, liberty, and property. In natural circumstances that precede the state, a person cannot individually enforce these rights.
Why do people need government authorities?
People can protect their fundamental rights only by imposing penalties for their encroachment. For example, the protection of the right to life is ensured through the delegation of representatives to the relevant bodies that, on behalf of the people and in the interests of the entire society, establish what a crime is and how it should be punished. Courts must ensure that the fundamental rights and rights derived from them be protected in accordance with laws adopted on behalf of the people.
When we create a state and delegate our rights to it, we must maintain it. To ensure protection of our rights, we allocate resources and create a government.
The function of the government is to collect and redistribute people’s money. Governments have no function other than that. They have to redistribute the funds in such a way as to perform the functions of the state and ensure fulfillment of what people agreed upon. The government is closed by its nature; under such conditions, it is very convenient to spend money.
Therefore, an extremely important function of the parliament is to control how the government collects and distributes money.
When does the parliamentary control over the government emerge?
The prime minister reads a report in parliament: Can we view it as a kind of control over the government? Perhaps we cannot. Both the current and the previous Prime Minister actually believe that just by coming to the Parliament and telling something from the rostrum, they report on their work.
The Ukrainian Parliament does not fulfill its control function and cannot fulfill it because it does not know what the government spends money on.
A vivid example of the government’s non-transparency is the vote on the state budget. The lack of a detailed budget, various inherent preferences, and non-transparency give rise to the phenomenon of the budget night when MPs vote for the state budget at night because they do not trust each other. Since everything is non-transparent and described in “broad-brush terms”, MPs sit at the table and agree on the allocation of funds. If they go to sleep, overnight, all arrangements may be reshuffled and in the morning everyone can come up with new wishes. That is why they vote for the budget “hot on the trail”.
This will continue until there is a detailed and very specific budget.
How do people in power make money?
The people who were in power in the first years of independence created a number of preferences for themselves:
– privatization and management of state-owned enterprises;
– non-transparent extraction of natural resources;
– non-transparent government contracts (budget).
These are the origins of the oligarchic economy of the 1990s.
Corrupt schemes will continue to function until people start to control their money themselves. The first step to this objective is local self-government that teaches people to manage their money and resources.
The next step should be personal tax payment. People seem to believe that the state gives them money without realizing that in reality it is they who maintain the state.
Taxes are a tool that guarantees the state unity and the quality of state institutions. The only mechanism for ensuring the payment of taxes is the inevitability of punishment for a failure to pay them.
The state will cease to exist if people stop paying taxes and controlling how their money is spent.
The quality of the Constitution and the quality of laws
The statement that we have one of the best constitutions in the world is a myth.
From laws people expect information on how they should regulate their behavior and predict consequences for themselves and others in case of non-compliance. If a law meets these requirements, it is of high-quality.
People suffer because of the state. Laws are written to protect people from violations by the authorities and to curb the state’s tyranny.
Laws have to protect human rights and must contain information about the responsible authority that should protect these rights and specify the ways to do this. A law is bad if it does not contain these elements.
Laws are voted in violation of the procedure; laws are not discussed beforehand. The process of voting laws as a whole has many defects; laws adopted based on this principle always contain a lot of mistakes. The main research and expert administration might be politically biased and dependent.
Key tips for young people:
- always look for the nature of things;
- always ask “Why?”
- never take anything at face value;
- study philosophy, think.
For additional information, please contact Iryna Cherpak at tel.: +38067 242 80 91.
The event was organized by the Agency for Legislative Initiatives together with the Internews Ukraine and the Interns’ League, supported by the USAID Rada Program: Responsible Accountable Democratic Assembly, implemented by the East Europe Foundation.
Photographer: Oleksandr Kovalenko