KIEV, Feb. 27 – Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko’s plan to bail out millions of people on their failed Soviet-era bank deposits may be facing challenges as some bank branches have been refusing to accept new claims.
President Viktor Yushchenko said Wednesday his office has recently received multiple complaints from people in the regions that Oshchadbank, the state savings bank, had started to reject the claims.
“I demand the government to take urgent steps to resume registration of the claims and to prevent in the future restrictions on the people’s legal rights,” Yushchenko said in a statement.
The problems with registration of the claims may indicate increasing difficulties at the government for the continuing massive payments of the deposits.
This comes amid growing pressures on the government to help Naftogaz Ukrayiny, the national oil and gas company, to pay debts for consumed Russian natural gas for this year and last.
But the developments also underscore the increasing competition among political leaders for credits if the plan, which is thought to be a ticket to the next presidency in 2009, proves to be successful.
Tymoshenko, ahead of the snap election on Sept. 30, 2007, sent shockwaves by pledging to return the Oschadbank deposits within the next two years, or exactly ahead of the presidential election due late 2009.
Yushchenko was originally against the populist plan, which he fears may undermine the country’s financial stability and boost consumer inflation dramatically.
But the plan proved to be a political gold-mine that had helped Tymoshenko to increase her public support dramatically, making her the most popular politician in Ukraine.
The plan has been also increasing financial strain on the budget adding upward pressure on inflation
The government paid 2.7 billion hryvnias to 2.7 million depositors between Jan. 9 and Feb. 22, according to the presidential office. Meanwhile, 4.68 million people registered their claims in the same period, the office said.
The total number of claims may grow to 20 million people, some analysts estimated, a number of that will put major pressure on the budget. The total debt is estimated at 132 billion hryvnias.
Yushchenko urged the government to report on the progress with making the payment by March 3.
Meanwhile, Oschadbank on Wednesday issued a statement denying any problems with the debt payments.
“Oschadbank has never stopped registrations of claims,” Anatoliy Huley, the chairman of Oschadbank, said. “Instead we’ve been making efforts to speed up the payments.” (tl/ez)