Space prospects

Will the President’s visit affect the future of Pivdenmash?

Dnipropetrovsk – President Viktor Yanukovych is going to visit the space-rocket enterprise Pivdenmash. The visit of the head of the state to Dnipropetrovsk is scheduled for October 12. The enterprise, which has been waiting for several months for the president, who promised to support it, confirmed this information. In the meantime, the former president and the former director general of the enterprise Leonid Kuchma, who visited Pivdenmash in the middle of September, expressed anxiety regarding the future of the plant and suggested privatizing it. “I’m sure that the ‘list of objects banned for privatization’ should be considerably reduced. Though it hurts to say this, but I don’t exclude the privatization of Pivdenmash either,” he stated in the interview to the magazine Ekspert-Ukraina. According to Kuchma, a private investor will be able to ensure the better development of the factory than the state does. “As a result of the attitude to the aerospace sector that our state has been showing for several years, the plant may soon be but a name,” stated the former president.

All political leaders supported the aerospace giant in recent years, albeit mostly before elections. For example, during the election campaign to the Verkhovna Rada in fall 2007, the leader of the party Batkivshchyna Yulia Tymoshenko promised the residents of Dnipropetrovsk to revive the fame of the city, Pivdenmash. During a year and a half as prime-minister she would visit the workers of the plant. During a government meeting held within Pivdenmash, Tymoshenko signed a dozen documents aimed at facilitating the enterprise’s operations and increasing funding. The late head of the National Space Agency of Ukraine Oleksandr Zinchenko announced plans to reorganize the plant, to single out the space-rocket constituent, moving it to a separate corporation, and focus on research and development. Already at that time many employees of the plant had been skeptical about such plans, as it turned out, for good reason. Moreover, during the economic crisis the main “breadwinner” of the enterprise — the International Space Corporation Sea Launch went bankrupt.

Before the presidential elections in January 2010, Kuchma came to Dnipropetrovsk again as a VIP agitator, and said he came to see how the “Ukrainian Breakthrough” was carried out in the aerospace field. According to his observations, financing was reduced by almost ten times in recent years. Out of 50 thousand workers of Pivdenmash, only 12 thousand were left, and the plant shifted to a three-day working week. There was no heating at the enterprise in winter — shops were cold, and rocket engines were assembled in tents with individual heating. Tymoshenko did not start a discussion with her old opponent, and after her defeat at the presidential elections she joined the opposition, giving the new government a possibility to show themselves. By the way, during the elections the future Premier Mykola Azarov assured residents of Dnipropetrovsk that Pivdenmash would be a priority, as would the Antonov corporation. However, from all appearances, the situation did not change significantly. In any case, the former president Kuchma began sounding the alarm bell once more.

The attitude of the Pivdenmash administration to the initiative of its former director was somewhat obscure. Representatives of the enterprise preferred to leave it without official commentary. “We don’t really discuss Kuchma’s idea about the privatization of Pivdenmash, though have we heard of it,” said one of the employees to The Day. “But people fear that when Pivdenmash is bought by a private investor, it will change its specialization and will cease to exist, as it happened with other plants. If privatization is possible, then perhaps one should reconfigure Pivdenmash into separate enterprises, which will produce trolleybuses and trams, tractors and agricultural equipment, as well as rockets and satellites.” Perhaps Russia could become a potential investor. After all, the Russian corporation Energiya, established as an affiliate, intends to purchase 85 percent of shares of the corporation Sea Launch. Pivdenmash does not say whether any crucial decisions will be taken after the future visit of the President Viktor Yanukovych. In the meantime, the failing enterprise will participate in the promising Ukrainian-Brazilian project on launching carrier rockets Tsyklon-4 from the equatorial launch center Alcantara. This project has been actively developed of late, and it is possible that this project will replace or successfully supplement Sea Launch’s activities.