For months citizens of Ukraine have been preparing for a challenging winter. The government warned that electricity and gas supplies were limited and services will be interrupted at some level. With limited information folks went about cutting trees, installing alternative heating systems, and doing whatever they could to prepare.
November went by without a hitch.. our Cafe electricity was fairly stable, and although we didn’t have gas, our electric heating system provided enough warmth. Consistency was such a nice luxury, especially for a new business and growing customer base.
So much for that! December has begun and our entire town is on utility rations. Today I picked up a schedule (see below), hand written, and as official as I could find, and very thankful I could even find this through a business friend in the center. It outlines the streets of our town, and the hours we can expect our electricity to be cut off. The problem is nobody knows which times, on which days.. but it’s a start!
Folks in the West will have a hard time understanding the difficulties of ‘doing life’ in this country right now, particularly if you are running a business. Ukraine was already extremely corrupt and antiquated, but now it’s even more challenging because those that used to take bribes or just ignore the antiquated ‘anti business’ laws, are nervous for their jobs and paying more attention to what is ‘legal’. This is, on the outside looking in, a good thing. However on the inside of this mess, it’s brought the country, and I’m afraid will continue to bring the country to it’s knees.
Reform is needed fast, because businesses cannot survive without reasonable rules, a tax system that makes sense. Businesses employ folks, that money then pays for heat, food and helps to keep other businesses open. I get that there’s not enough energy to last the winter, that’s the situation and it can’t be ignored. However, making no distinction between private residence (who can survive a few hrs every day without electricity) and businesses that employ the residence is an ignorant mistake on a national scale that will have a national impact.
When I talk to other business owners in Ukraine a few of them have come close to tears – they ask, “In America does your government do this to your business?” I can hear the anti-Obama folks declaring, “yes!” but you have no idea what you are talking about. At every step, the country is defusing the entrepeneurial spirit in its people. If the borders opened up, 50% of the population (especially the young) would be gone in a second.
Ok, enough venting! The gas company has spent over a week installing a pipe on the exterior of our building. It has also connected our new meter, come inside our building with the new pipe and has left the pipes inches from the Pizza Oven and Range. So close, but so far away. We’re not allowed to touch it. They’ll be back.. sometime.
We could REALLY use the gas kotyol turned on right now as the temps have reached below -10C and it’s a tad chilly inside the building. Folks still come in daily, and are enjoying the new Christmas decorations, and music!
Pray for Gas, for an understanding of our electricity rations, and an appropriate response to them. If we don’t have power during our best business hours, it won’t be financially or logistically possible to remain open during the winter. It would be real shame, with all the effort/momentum we have built up, but it’s a situation many businesses are now facing.