President of Ukraine

Speech by President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy at an extraordinary session of the Verkhovna Rada

4 March 2020 - 17:52

Speech by President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy at an extraordinary session of the Verkhovna Rada

Dear people's deputies! Fellow Ukrainians!

I am confident that any government takes a step into the abyss when it loses three main things - memory, hearing and sight. That is, when the government forgets its promises, it ceases to hear people and sees no need for change.

It is not about us. The proof of that is that we are here today. Everyone is well aware of the main issue - the work of the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine.

Let us be objective - this government has accomplishments. The decrease in inflation, reduction of the NBU base rate, fight against the shadow markets, including gambling and illegal gas stations. The beginning of the privatization of state-owned enterprises that have been looted all these years. The loans to SMEs. The reduction of the role of the state in the economy.

But the truth is that it is not enough for Ukrainians today.

Yes, this is the first government where there is no top corruption. But no stealing is not enough.

It is a government of new faces, but faces are not enough. We need new brains and new hearts.

This government knows what to do, but knowing is not enough. It is necessary to work a lot, it is necessary to do.

And we must not fear the truth, we must admit mistakes. Because on the day we dive into the warm bath of illusions, the whole country will sink.

We have constantly heard about the economic leap, but there is an impression that the economy has been gaining pace, stumbled and risks to hit the ground.

In two months of the new year, non-compliance of the state budget is nearly 16 billion hryvnias. We have to tell the truth. 13 of them are a failure in customs revenue. Businesses hopelessly signal that smuggling has not completely disappeared. We were told about a decisive and uncompromising fight against smuggling. But now it looks like smuggling has knocked out the customs service in this fight. This needs to be changed. It is essential. Customs must collect money for the state treasury, not “likes” in Facebook.

Another painful issue is the fall of industry by 5%. It has lasted for the fourth consecutive month in many sectors. Unfortunately, the government has not provided tools stimulating domestic production and new production capacity.

The industrial glory of Ukraine is gradually becoming a flashback. We risk that speaking about our industrial potential people will soon say: "That was a long time ago, and that was not true".

The next issue is utility bills. We signed a contract for gas transit. We met the winter with record reserves in storage facilities, reduced the gas price for the population. Today it is 35% lower than last year, the lowest in the last four years. But people became confused by the chaos with payments in January and February. Somewhere they became smaller. Somewhere - no. Some people were charged a fee for gas delivery several months in advance. Somewhere those who do not use gas at all were charged.

The government, I think, has, in fact, failed the most important thing - the information campaign and communication, the work with local authorities so that people in all regions can feel a reduction in the heating bill.

And this is not the only thing that needs to be reduced. The concept of ministers’ salaries has been revised, it is true. Payments were reduced. But there are questions about the salaries and bonuses of many supervisory board members. We understand that there are laws of the market, we do not suggest paying a "minimum" wage in a populist manner. But, excuse me, when over ten million people live on the poverty line, there can be no such payments to people who, being members of supervisory boards, arrive in Ukraine two or three times a year.

Today, it has actually become more profitable to “supervise” than to work in Ukraine. And with all due respect to international partners, with all gratitude for their help, today our citizens in the supervisory boards of our enterprises feel like a national minority.

We do not question the transparency or efficiency of foreigners' work and their contribution to the fight against corruption. It's just a matter of fairness and our sense of agency.

Our next pain is the situation with the miners and the coal industry. Yes, these problems have been around for 15 years. But today it is our inheritance and our responsibility. First of all, it is about the salaries of miners and the sale of Ukrainian coal.

This problem was in the summer. Everyone intervened. This isn’t normal, but I also intervened. There was a problem again. I intervened again, and this week miners will be paid 650 million UAH of debt.

But I cannot always become a psychologist for people, a crisis manager for someone, a collector who requires honestly earned money, and a nanny of the ministry in charge.

Separately about the "horror stories" of the ministry and many politicians about the closure of the mines. Once again I emphasize that closing a mine does not mean closing the issue. Therefore, first - training and retraining of people, creating new jobs, providing at least a similar salary, and only then can we raise the issue of closing an unprofitable mine. Only in such order.

And please tell me, how the import of foreign electricity and coal can be discussed when our miners are not protected by the state? These are thousands of miners and their families.

Even more distressing numbers are ahead. That's over 11 million retirees. Unfortunately, there is no real communication of the plan for raising their pensions. The public has not heard anything about it. A big number of retirees receive less than two thousand hryvnias. The indexation of pensions has not been carried out. The program of increasing pensions for people who are 80 years old has not yet been implemented. And we struggle so much for it and talk about it so much. The Pension Fund remains a huge inefficient machine that consumes UAH 5 billion only for its functioning. Against this background, pensioners and other socially vulnerable groups of citizens have only one question: what for and what will happen next?

The situation is similar in the healthcare sector. And it's true. I understand that it is very difficult for the Ministry of Health leadership to deal with the fragments of the medical system they inherited. It is difficult to heal a patient who has been given placebos and chamomile tea for many years instead of normal treatment.

And I thank Mrs. Skaletska for staying with people in Novi Sanzhary. I thank her for her courage. But in our medical sector, courage cannot be a one-time action. One must have the courage to admit that many are not ready for the second phase of medical reform to be held on April 1. It's true.

Almost every day we have protests in various medical institutions. People are afraid of closing hospitals, doctors are afraid of dismissals, local authorities are sometimes not ready to assume responsibility, there is not enough funding and so on. There are big questions about tariffs, medical equipment and a very big question about staffing. So, the main question is: why are we in a hurry?

Doesn’t it seem to us that with such an approach, the reform flies into the wall?

Of course, a separate topic is coronavirus. I want to calm everyone down. Yes, we have the first confirmed case. But the situation is under control. All necessary measures have been taken. And I think the first briefing of the new Minister of Health will be dedicated to this very topic.

Among other things, today we will hear the long-awaited report of all law enforcement agencies of Ukraine. You know that the President does not influence their work. But I would like to give them two gifts. The first is a calendar. It should remind you that spring has come.

The second is the Criminal Code of Ukraine. There is a suspicion that someone does not have it. I hope it becomes your desk companion.

At a summer meeting, law enforcement officials said unanimously: “We have everything. Only political will is needed”. I gave it to you. Take it. You received it. You said: "Telephone law must be abolished". We abolished it. Nobody gives names which you should "pay attention to" or vice versa - cannot touch. How can I not interfere with your work more, so that it finally yields the result that both Ukrainian citizens and our international partners expect?

State Bureau of Investigation, Security Service of Ukraine, Specialized Anticorruption Prosecutor's Office, National Anticorruption Bureau, Ministry of the Interior, Prosecutor General’s Office. We already have six bodies in place to ensure order and justice. Is there another body left to finally bring to life the proverb about seven nannies who have a child without an eye?

We have carried out a number of reforms, launched the Supreme Anticorruption Court, rebooted the NAPC, restored responsibility for illegal enrichment - I am grateful to the Verkhovna Rada, the Servant of the People Party, to all the deputies who voted for it, adopted the law on corruption whistleblowers. For how long should Ukrainian society expect the results in the most resonant cases? We promised citizens a victory over corruption. Now it's not even a draw.

Fellow Ukrainians! I ran for President having no political experience. But I had, and have faith and the will to implement the changes required. Everyone knows the words of Václav Havel: "Five years of mistakes are better than 50 years of sabotage". Yes, we make mistakes, many mistakes. But we are ready to acknowledge and correct them.

I would like to address our international partners separately. We appreciate and thank you for your continued support. And our course remains the same. And for us the priorities are unchanged. And we all want and do everything every day to end the war in Donbas and return all our territories. Because this is our country. We will continue to follow the path of reforms in all spheres. The course of Ukraine is not a mistake. But some mistakes were made while following this course. It happens.

To be honest. I am not ashamed of our government. But we would like to be proud of it. This government has done more than all other governments combined. But this is rather a minus for the previous governments, not a plus for our government.

Today, in the domestic political field, it is too tight for the existing problems and the current government. They can no longer exist nearby - that's my opinion. So, one of them must leave.

Dear people’s deputies! Yesterday, a letter by Oleksiy Honcharuk was submitted to the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine with a request to accept his resignation.

I call on the people's deputies of Ukraine to judge this statement with their personal vote.

Thank you!