Measures to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic in Ukraine should include urgent progress on income-generating laws, experts warn.
The newly appointed Cabinet of Ministers is yet to clarify the status of currently stalled economic reforms — namely the opening of land and gambling markets — as policymakers in Ukraine tackle the crisis caused by the COVID-19 threat.
“COVID-19 is an additional catalyst for the economic recession seen in Ukraine over the past few months” says Valeri Klochok, an economics expert, during a press conference on the prospects of the gambling industry in Ukraine on March 20, 2020.
Klochok highlights that the Ukrainian budget is already short of almost 65 bn UAH (2.3B USD) from the amount planned in budget law for 2020.
According to one expert, Ukrainian Parliament know that a number of critical measures needed to tackle COVID–19 can’t be implemented without a full national budget.
At the moment it is unclear how and if Ukrainian Parliament will continue to operate given the rapid spread of COVID-19, rules are constantly getting stricter with one MEP already confirmed as contracting the virus.
“Politicians should be making quick and effective decisions and urgently focusing on draft laws that can bring income into the Ukrainian budget. One such draft laws is 2285d, which focuses on legislation in the gambling market” said Klochok.
Anton Kuchukhidze, a Kyiv-based international affairs analyst, says that the President’s Office made an effort to legalize gambling industry back in 2019, but shadow-like forces within the market in Ukraine managed to take advantage of the then inexperienced government and parliamentary majority.
“These shadow-like forces are very active in the media, working to discredit interest groups who are pioneering the idea of legalization of the gambling industry for the power of good” the expert said.
This idea is supported by Ukrainian media expert Volodymyr Dehtyarev, who recently commented on a defamation campaign reported by Marketing Media Review, which highlights a smear campaign against popular betting brand Parimatch, who welcome President Zelensky’s commitment to an open and transparent gambling market.
“When communications specialists observe the same negative news piece on a number of low rate websites, so called ‘garbage bins’, it is crystal clear that this a defamation campaign” says Dehtyarev, in reference to such a campaign against Parimatch which suggested that they advised Ukrainian lawmakers on the way the industry should be legalised in Ukraine, for their own benefit.
According to Volodymyr, “defamation and fake news may be concealed as investigative pieces, often the stories reported are crazy, outlandish and downright bizarre.”
A quick online search of ‘Parimatch’ shows some of these kind of defamatory pieces.
Another big betting company popular in Ukraine — FAVORIT Sport — has also reported both defamation in the media and unreasonable searches and seizures of equipment, which took place at the end of 2019 and in 2020.
However, according to Anton Kuchukhidze, there is a chance that despite the plans of the new Ukrainian government to resort to the IMF for credit of 5 bn USD, they will get back to work on both land and gambling market reform soon.
He believes such decisions will help Ukraine to recover from recession, decrease corruption and stimulate internal demand.
“Despite what critics say of the project draft law 2285d, set to legalize gambling in Ukraine say, there is one indisputable truth — the Ukraine national budget will receive income from fixed license prices immediately. There is no doubt that it will happen even faster than income from land reform. Therefore, there is no better, effective and faster way of increasing the national budget with income that is so drastically needed today” said Kuchukhidze in a comment.