Leading Ukrainian economists sign letter calling for lifting moratorium on land sales
Leading Ukrainian economists and policy makers have signed an open letter addressed to Verkhovna Rada deputies criticizing the halt in land reform efforts. Ukraine's parliament on October 6 voted overwhelmingly (297 votes) to extend for a year the moratorium on agricultural land sales.
"We view this decision [on extending the moratorium] not only as an egregious error, but also as a sign of the tragic misunderstanding in society about one of the key issues of economic reform, which is needed to overcome one of the tragic consequences of the country's Soviet past, which Ukraine must rid itself of … but has failed to do so," the letter says.
Signatories include ex-Prime Minister of Ukraine Yuriy Ekhanurov, former head of the Ministry for Economic Development Pavel Sheremet, First Deputy Head of the Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources Maksym Martyniuk, head of Ukraine's Society of Economic Freedoms Marian Zablotsky, Co-chairman of the civil platform New Ukraine Andriy Dlihach, Univer Investment Group Taras Kozak, Managing Director of Capital Times Investment Company Erik Nayman, Economist Danylo Monin, MPs Volodymy Ariev and Oleksiy Mushak.
Well-known journalist and civil activist Mykola Veresen and rock music group lead singer Valeriy Kharchyshyn also signed the letter.
The authors say Ukrainian rural farmers, who for hundreds of years have been deprived of the right to own land, gained the right only for a short period of time following Ukraine's Independence in 1991.
"However, first under the influence of the pro-Communist majority in parliament during the 1990s, and later under the influence of other populist forces, our parliament eight times over the last 25 years of Ukraine's new history, has extended the moratorium on land sales, depriving people of their constitutional right to dispense of their property as they see fit," the letter reads.
The economists say proponents of the land sales moratorium, who complained about low starting prices for land plots, are groundless because the absence of a market [for land] are the reason prices are artificially low.
Signatories cite countries of eastern Europe, which opened land sales markets 10 to 15 years ago, as an example of how the development of a land sales market helped develop the economy, increase land prices and crop yields.
The letter says that due to artificial barriers and the lack of an alternative, the level of land leasing fees in Ukraine is one of the lowest in Europe, leaving almost 6.7 million Ukrainians hostage.