KIEV, Nov. 26 – Parliament on Thursday failed to override a presidential veto of a bill that would have forced the National Bank of Ukraine to print one billion hryvnias to fight the current flu epidemic. The Regions Party, the largest opposition group, rejected it.
The development is a major setback for Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, whose government has been facing a major shortage of funds, and comes despite her personal appeal to lawmakers.
It may be signaling Tymoshenko’s weakening political clout less than two months before the next presidential election as rivals accuse her government of poor budget management.
“The attempt to force the National bank to spend non-existing resources is a gross violation of fundamental basics of the country’s financial system,” Oleksandr Shlapak, the top economic advisor of President Viktor Yushchenko, said. “It is turning the National bank into a money-printing tool and threatens all people with inflation hikes.”
Tymoshenko argued the money was needed to prepare for the second wave of flu after many Ukrainian regions have gone through a flu epidemic earlier this month. She complained on Thursday that the government’s anti-flu effort will now come to a standstill.
“Today Parliament has disarmed me as the premier in the fight for preparing Ukraine for next waves of the flu epidemic,” Tymoshenko said, adding that she was surprised the Regions Party had rejected the bill.
“I was completely confused when they had failed to vote,” Tymoshenko said.
Yushchenko vetoed the bill on November 16, suggesting the government must cut other spending or borrow money from commercial banks instead of demanding the cash from the NBU.
Meanwhile, there were also speculations of alleged corruption with the way the government has been spending the money that had been aimed at fighting flu.
Tymoshenko claimed the government had spent 500 million hryvnias to fight the epidemic since over the past three weeks and said more money – at least one billion hryvnias – was required to continue the effort.
But mew data cited by the presidential office and by the opposition Regions Party show only 60 million hryvnias has been actually spent with the rest of 440 million hryvnias being unaccented for.
“Where is the rest of the money? No one knows,” Hanna Herman, a senior member of the Regions Party, said.
The Regions Party submitted a bill that calls for the disbursal of 200 million hryvnias for the anti-flu effort in December, suggesting the government will simply not have enough time to spend one billion hryvnias.
“This money [200 million hryvnias] can be spent over the next month, but one billion hryvnias can only be stolen,” Herman said.
The opposition Communist Party, which controls 27 seats in the 450-seast Parliament, backed Tymoshenko’s calls for overriding the bill with an overall of 231 lawmakers supporting the bill.
Parliament held an emergency session on Thursday at the request of the Tymoshenko Bloc. (nr/ez)