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Thursday, January 21, 2010

Video Introduction To Carbon Credit Trading And Finance

Being in the carbon trading and finance business, I often get a lot of questions from people outside the industry about what exactly it's all about.

I have come across a nice, concise introductory video overview of carbon credit projects and finance dynamics. I like its straightforward approach, and thought it would be nice to share here on the blog. Brought to us from the folks at Carbon Credit Capital, enjoy.

Cheers Jon

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Ukraine Must Consolidate Politically After The February Second Round Elections To Address The Current Financial Crisis

When the final February results are determined for who is Ukraine's next president, it will be necessary for the winner to quickly consolidate his or her power in the Cabinet and throughout other areas of government to forge a common political mandate.

Without such a unified approach, it will be impossible to enforce crucial policy decisions needed to bring the IMF lending facility back into action, etc. Ukraine must quickly heal any post election wounded feelings and focus on moving forward as best it can. In the Parliament, no doubt there will be bitterness and divisions among those who did not win... a lot of olive branches will need to be extended.

With that in mind, here's an old Ukrainian anthem that could be dusted off and brought back into circulation with its healing message. I hereby offer you the Black Sea Orchestra's musical interpretation of an old Lennon/McCartney classic:

Legacy of Outgoing Ukrainian President Viktor Yushenko

Regardless of which way the February 7 votes are cast... there is no doubt that Ukraine enjoys more social freedoms nowadays than previously.  The economy is in crisis, the government remains allegedly corrupt and the country has a lot of problems surely.  Either Mr. Yanukovych or Ms. Tymoshenko has a large task on their hands to try and get the IMF lending program for Ukraine back on some sort of track in 2010, and to avoid risk of even greater crises in the coming months.

With all these worries ahead, it is nice to reflect on some of the positive results achieved during the past 5 years.  The Yushchenko government was not a total failure in some areas and it is likely that history will judge him more kindly than present times.  I came across an article by Tony Halpin in the news which, in my opinion, hits upon this subject nicely.  It reminds everyone that no matter how bad things might get in Ukraine, there is still plenty to be thankful for.  See below:

Despite his humiliating rejection...history should just him kindly.

By Tony Halpin in Kiev, TimesOnline (UK), London, UK, Mon, 18 January 2010

KIEV - Viktor Yushchenko, Ukraine’s outgoing president, has tasted a heavy defeat at the polls. But despite his humiliating rejection by all but 6 per cent of the electorate, history should judge him kindly.

For all the political and economic turbulence of the past five years, Ukraine has been transformed under his presidency from just another ugly post-Soviet basket case into a country with real hopes of success as a democratic civil society.

One has only to compare political life in neighbouring Belarus and Russia to the vibrancy of the contest in Ukraine to see the effect the Orange Revolution has had.

Voters enjoyed a genuine choice of candidates reflecting a full spectrum of political opinions. Campaigns were conducted without fear that the ruling regime would send in riot police to break up election meetings and arrest opposition activists. Vigorous debates were available on every television channel, while street billboards were a riot of posters from competing candidates.

Mr Yushchenko and his former Orange ally Yuliya Tymoshenko, the Prime Minister, did not use the infamous “administrative resources” so often wheeled out in Russia to rig results.

One of the most remarkable aspects of the first round of voting was the absence of any serious complaints from candidates about ballot-rigging, given the massive fraud that prompted the Orange revolt in 2004.

Ukraine still has many problems, particularly with corruption, and none of these achievements is irreversible. But people freely speak their minds here and the fear that so stifles public life in other former Soviet republics has gone.

Which is why Ukraine matters and why the West has a big stake in the outcome of this election. The Kremlin keenly portrays its neighbour to domestic audiences as being in a state of constant chaos since the revolution because it fears the example of a thriving open society on Russia’s border. A Ukraine that works is a direct challenge to the former KGB spooks and shadowy apparatchiks who control politics in Moscow.

A trend has developed in recent years for Russians to travel to Kiev for the weekend to enjoy the more relaxed atmosphere of Ukraine’s capital, where police keep a lower profile than their counterparts in Moscow. They see that people smile more easily, service in restaurants and stores is more cheerful, that the tension they sense at home is absent in human relations.

In short, they see that Ukrainians have a stake in their society and can influence its future, and that this affects the public mood. The average Russian has no such opportunity and feels a sense of sullen resentment towards the authorities that leaves the Kremlin constantly fearful of political upheaval.

This election will determine whether the Ukrainian experiment continues or starts to degrade. It is tempting for the United States and the European Union collectively to wring their hands at the bickering that soured the Orange dream but Mr Yushchenko has left a legacy worth defending and they should be far more vigorous in saying so.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Ukraine's First Round Election Results Are In: Final Round To Be On February 7

The Central Electoral Commission of Ukraine has processed almost all of the ballot papers of the district electoral commissions this morning... Victor Yanukovych (the current opposition leader in government, who was alleged to have possibly tampered with the 2004 presidential elections by vote rigging) is the first round winner with 35-37% of the vote leading up to the second round February vote.

Acting Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko gained about 24% of the vote, and her Orange Revolution running mate Victor Yushchenko received about 5%. A final runoff vote between Mr. Yanukovych and Ms. Tymoshenko will occur on February 7, at which time the new President of Ukraine will be declared.

Current public polls and surveys conducted by local and international media sources appear to indicate a degree of cynicism among Ukrainian voters, and many of the polled voters have told the media that they view neither of the final two candidates as representing a major change from the status quo or "politics as usual." As Ukraine sits in the middle of a financial crisis and is working to strengthen/reinforce its ties to both Europe and Russia, both candidates appear similarly qualified to act in these areas, and neither appears to offer a competitive difference in terms of addressing corruption or fraud.

During the massive Orange Revolution in 2004, both Ms. Tymoshenko and former President Victor Yushchenko were widely embraced as a fresh wave of government cleansing and business market transparency. But since that date 5 years ago, many opportunities to deliver the promised improvements were missed and the Orange legacy in the eyes of many Ukrainians has faded. It has been replaced in part with a jaded public outlook toward political reform speeches and rhetoric.

Unfortunately across all party groups, several leading politicians have spent the Orange Revolution years engaging in self-defeating agendas of mudslinging, populist pandering and decision paralysis.  In absence of a unified political reform direction, the common men and women of Ukraine have not seen large improvements to their qualities of life or their prospects. 

Therefore the Ukrainian people have stopped expecting delivery on the lofty promises from the Orange Revolution or its associated figureheads... and this 2010 election will be about choosing a favorite between the two leading names rather than choosing between cultural ideologies or a "Russia versus Europe" direction debate. 

Voters have more modest views of what can be achieved now, and seem to hold politicians less accountable for their actions because they don't believe true accountability is possible in the near term realistically. Anti-corruption campaigns in Ukraine since 2004 typically have meant "attempting to undo the business interests of one's political enemies in the name of corruption" rather than sincere reform efforts against widespread elitism, fraud, graft or covert criminality.

The final February voting results will greatly depend on which region of Ukraine has greater voter turnout. If more voters show up to the polls in Eastern Ukraine then Victor Yanukovych probably will carry enough votes to become Ukraine's next President. If more Western Ukrainian voters participate, then the Prime Minister could win -- especially if she picks up some swing votes from recently defeated co-candidates from the first round. Much money will be spent over the next three weeks to mobilize these respective voter pools.

The developing back story is how Sergiy Tigipko's political block aligns in days leading up to February 7. He gained approximately 13% of the first round votes, he is a successful businessman and relatively fresh face that has gained fast traction with voters, and his endorsement could represent the swing block needed to safely clinch the elections by either Mr. Yanukovych of Ms. Tymoshenko.

However, several people who voted for Mr. Tigipko did so as a sort of "no confidence" vote against both the two leading candidates.  If he fails to align with either candidate prior to February, then it is possible that his supporters may largely abstain from voting in February. Surely both Mr. Yanukovych and Ms. Tymoshenko will be reaching out with personal entreaties to Mr. Tigipko's camp to try and get his vocal endorsement and mobilize his voter pool to their opponent's detriment.

It will be interesting to see which of Ukraine's two cults of personality wins the final vote in February.  The vote seems like it will be more of a personal popularity contest than a policy and government choice.  Both candidates are larger than life with their faces plastered on buildings and billboards all over the country.  Both are supported by massive business and political networks who will battle it out until the final vote is cast. Both represent a hopeful improvement to the former President Victor Yushchenko, who spent his final years focused on blocking his rivals rather than playing the role of a head statesman.

I will monitor all the voting news in the press over the next three weeks, and I will summarize the events as they unfold on a rolling basis.

Regards from Kiev,