Serhii Borzov, Head of the Vinnytsia OMA
Despite the challenges of war, we strive to ensure stability in the oblast
18.12.2023 14:35

During the full-scale war, the specifics of each of the country’s oblasts became apparent to the maximum, determined by their location, natural conditions, and economic potential. And, most importantly, by their distance from the war zone. In the second year of the war, the Vinnytsia Oblast offered support and refuge for hundreds of thousands of homeless people. The oblast authorities were thus faced with the key task of ensuring, despite the challenges of wartime, regional stability and security — an environment in which the economy could develop and the military and IDPs could be supported.

Serhii Borzov, Head of the Vinnytsia OMA, shared with the Ukrinform correspondent his view of the achievability of the goal set.

STRENGTHENING THE DEFENSE CAPACITY

“Mr. Borzov, how would you describe the current situation in the oblast?”

“Despite our oblast being regarded as a rear area, every night it faces the threat of attacks on strategic facilities by enemy UAVs. However, we can talk about certain stabilizing aspects now. We’ve worked on this for two years.

“One of the most important issues that arose at the beginning of the full-scale invasion was sheltering those Ukrainians who were forced to flee the war zone. I believe that we did a great job here. By now, handling IDPs has become a precision operation. This applies to their accommodation, education, employment, and medical care.

“The economy is working. Businesses and individual entrepreneurship are developing despite everything. The logistics of raw material supply and product sales are gradually being adjusted.

“The educational process in the context of war is being improved. The safety of students and the provision of shelters is a top priority for us. This is evidenced by the fact that 97% of educational institutions are equipped with shelters.

“We are also constantly working on the issue of the oblast’s energy security. Today, all social service institutions in the oblast are equipped with additional sources of power supply.”

“You’ve mentioned the threat from enemy missiles and UAVs. Has the sky over the Vinnytsia Oblast become more secure in the second year of the war?”

“Based on the experience of the past winter and fall, and knowing how unpredictable our enemy is, we’ve been actively preparing all this time. We work closely with the Defense Force and have set up efficient liaison mechanisms with it. In particular, we’ve been strengthening our defense capabilities and ability to withstand enemy air attacks.

“As a result, air defense in the oblast has been significantly strengthened. We have a lot to defend, as there are many strategic facilities in the Vinnytsia Oblast. The number of air defense weapons and mobile fire teams has been increased. For example, only recently we handed over 34 pickup trucks to an AA machine gun battalion to boost our air defense.

“Besides, we’ve provided engineering protection for critical infrastructure facilities. Power engineers are also doing their best to maintain the stability of the grid.

“This is the situation in a nutshell. The rest cannot be disclosed.”

“What is the current situation in Ladyzhyn now? A year ago, the city was left without heating after the local TPP was hit by missiles. An emergency was even declared there. Has this problem been resolved?”

“Our priority is that people — which means 18 thousand residents of Ladyzhyn — have heating in their homes. The first task thus was to set up a backup heating system in the city. We started working on this issue last year, as soon as the problem surfaced. The work continued through this year. We’ve been actively preparing for the new heating season. To date, two modular block boiler houses have been commissioned in Ladyzhyn. One of them is solid fuel-fired with a 1.9 MW capacity, the other is natural gas-fired with a 3.9 MW capacity. A backup heating main was also built. The other day we verified that the third modular boiler house, capable of supplying heat to about 70% of the city’s consumers, was ready for operation. We can say that the work on diversifying the heat supply in Ladyzhyn has been completed, and the city will be ready for alternative heating.”

ALMOST FOUR THOUSAND MORE ENTREPRENEURS

“How is the economy doing in the Vinnytsia Oblast in the second year of the Great War?”

“Let’s start by saying that the OMA ensures the implementation of the key regional programs adopted in the oblast. This primarily concerns the matters of the region’s socioeconomic development. Along with — which is important — everything related to the support of socially vulnerable groups, IDPs, and the families of our defenders. And, of course, the development and support of healthcare, education, small and medium-sized agricultural producers. All this is being implemented and financially supported to the maximum extent possible.

“Despite the war, 31 investment projects worth almost UAH 1.44 billion were implemented in the oblast, creating 1,030 new jobs.

“Today, almost 84 thousand small business entities operate in the oblast. This includes almost 12 thousand small-sized enterprises and about 70 thousand individual entrepreneurs. Since early in the year, there has been an upward trend in their numbers. For example, the number of small business entities increased by 4.4 thousand. That of small-sized enterprises increased by 466. There are almost 4,000 more individual entrepreneurs.

“What does this indicate? The fact that the Vinnytsia Oblast offers a positive investment climate, new opportunities for entrepreneurs, and niches for starting a business. This is good for the oblast too. In fact, revenues to budgets of all levels from the operation of small business entities in the first nine months of this year amounted to UAH 4.6 billion. This is 20% more against the same period in 2022.

“We also have a positive trend in the export and import activities in the Vinnytsia Oblast. In the first nine months of this year alone, foreign trade turnover amounted to USD 1.8 billion. This is 19% more than last year. Foreign trade operations are conducted with partners from 122 countries.”

THE MOST OF THE GRAINS AND PULSES HARVESTED

“How did farmers do this year?”

“I can say that this year our farmers have sown all the cultivated areas and completed harvesting. Overall, the Vinnytsia Oblast harvested the largest amount of grains and pulses among the country’s oblasts, with more than 5.1 million tons threshed. Furthermore, more than 870 thousand tons of sunflower seed, 345 thousand tons of soybeans, and 420 thousand tons of rapeseed were threshed.

“The climate in the Vinnytsia Oblast was conducive to the growing of vegetables. Therefore, agricultural enterprises refocused their efforts by doubling the areas for vegetable production. However, fruit and vegetable processing enterprises had to be included in the government grant support in view of the insufficient warehouse storage capacity.

“We also harvested sugar beets, and now have over 2.5 million tons of raw sugar. All five sugar mills are currently in operation. They have already produced more than 340 thousand tons of sugar.

“Despite everything, this oblast is the country’s leader in terms of livestock production. We occupy the first place in the sale of slaughter animals, and the third place in milk production.

“In general, the problem of setting up sales routes for agricultural products remains acute. You can see the issues we are facing on our western borders. On top of that, there are logistical problems that the Russians have created for us.”

COMMUNITIES WILL HAVE ENOUGH BUDGET FUNDS EVEN WITHOUT PERSONAL INCOME TAX PAID BY SERVICEMEN

“The Government has taken away from communities the personal income tax that is paid by servicemen. How will this affect the local budget performance and the communities’ financial capacity?”

“To make the conversation meaningful, let’s analyze the situation.

“This year, up to October 1 inclusive, which is the date when PIT paid by servicemen is to be reallocated to the central budget, local budgets in the Vinnytsia Oblast were credited with UAH 2.74 billion from this tax. Generally speaking, communities had significant additional financial resources this year. Of these, more than UAH 4 billion was allocated for non-priority expenditures, including the so-called “paving.” As of early November, budget balance amounted to UAH 298 million. The additional revenues in the general fund of local budgets were almost UAH 1.12 billion.

“That is, the majority of local budgets have significant unallocated financial resources at the end of the year, which can be used to purchase the necessary equipment for our defenders. The position of the central government is clear: money for defense ― now, paving ― after the victory. I believe that horizontal budget equalization is a necessary step for the State during the war. We have to work for the Armed Forces, and this includes local budgets too.

“Fears that the absence of ‘military’ PIT will be devastating for communities are unsubstantiated. For example, 23 out of 63 territorial communities in the Vinnytsia Oblast did not receive this tax at all due to the absence of military contingents. Nevertheless, all the necessary measures that required funding were taken.

“Moreover, the amendments to the Budget Code of Ukraine stipulate that the State guarantees reimbursement to those local budgets that will lose a significant portion of their revenues because of the unavailability of servicemen’s PIT. This means that additional subsidies will be allocated to local budgets if necessary.

“As far as local budget performance in the oblast is concerned, according to current data, complete budget performance is expected from all territorial communities in 2023. This will also ensure payments under all protected budget items.”

DEFENSE ― NOW, PAVING ― AFTER THE VICTORY

“Speaking of funds spent on ‘paving.’ The ‘Transparency and Accountability’ task group was set up under the OMA to prevent instances of misuse of funds. Has its work been productive so far?”

“Indeed, it has. Here’s an example. Following the operational and economic analysis of budget procurement published on the www.prozorro.gov.ua web portal, it was found that one of the communities had contracted an entrepreneur to overhaul the rehabilitation department of a local hospital for UAH 1.5 million. He was also contracted to overhaul and insulate the sports pavilion at a sports school, worth another UAH 1.4 million. And all this despite the fact that in August, by the time when the contracts were signed, the court found the entrepreneur guilty of committing a property crime and sentenced him to four years of imprisonment. He was also stripped of the right to engage in business activities associated with repair and construction work for two years. To prevent the illegal use of budget funds and avoid their potential embezzlement, letters were forwarded to the managers, instructing them to take appropriate response measures.

“In total, 140 cases of public procurement were monitored, and multiple violations were identified. Six criminal proceedings, which investigate the use of budget funds exceeding UAH 27 million, were documented and registered in the cases of criminal offenses. Managers were issued letters demanding that violations identified in the procurement process be eliminated, which resulted in the cancellation of four procurements worth UAH 6.3 million.”

RECOVERY MONEY GOES TO INFRASTRUCTURE PROJECTS

“In October, the Cabinet of Ministers allocated UAH 534 million to the Vinnytsia Oblast following the reallocation of recovery subventions from the central budget. How will these funds be used?”

“Specific to our oblast is the concentration of a large number of IDPs. Today, we are home to more than 160,000 IDPs, which puts an additional burden on the entire infrastructure, especially medical and educational one. Besides, many of our defenders are undergoing treatment and rehabilitation, and military families need support as well.

“All categories of citizens should have access to a wide range of high-quality medical and educational services.

“In total, funding was allocated to implement nine projects. Five of them will be rolled out in the Stryzhavka, Ulaniv, and Zhmerynka Territorial Communities.

“Funds from the subvention allocated to the oblast budget will be used to build an educational institution, overhaul and repair hospitals in the oblast ― these are the other four projects.”

HEALTH OF MORE THAN 800 CHILDREN OF OUR DEFENDERS IMPROVED

“You mentioned the support of defenders. How does the oblast support the Defense Force and military families?”

“This year, more than UAH 1.66 million was allocated from the oblast’s Regional Material Reserve for the Security and Defense Force. These funds were used to purchase and deliver medical kits, tents, sleeping bags, shade nets, fire extinguishers, personal hygiene products, autonomous power supplies with accessories, and food to our servicemen.

“Special thanks go to all the donors. Together with charitable organizations, we have delivered 32 UAVs, 16 thermal imagers, 3 generators, 49 vehicles, and many other essential supplies to our defenders. This aid amounted to over UAH 8 million.

“Fifty-five vehicles worth more than UAH 17 million were handed over to military units following forced alienation and seizure of property.

“We help all units from the Vinnytsia Oblast, which are stationed along the entire front line.

“As for the military families, we have set a clear task: provide them with social support.

“Across the oblast, we have implemented a program to support and assist defenders who were injured while defending Ukraine. Mobile teams have been assembled to provide them with comprehensive medical, psychological, social support and assistance. These teams visit the families of defenders to determine the status and needs of these individuals and their families.

“Another project is called ‘Veteran’s Assistant.’ Our oblast is among the four pilot ones introducing this service. Thirteen assistants are already out there to help veterans to make a transit from military service to civilian life. Veteran Service Offices have opened in four pilot communities.

“We always keep an eye on our defenders’ children. This fall, almost 800 boys and girls from all districts and cities of oblast significance in the Vinnytsia Oblast spend their vacations in Zakarpattia. In the summer, our children travelled to the Łódź and Mazowieckie Voivodeships in the Republic of Poland.”

Antonina Mnikh

Photos by Oleksandra Lapina

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