Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko is facing growing calls to root out corruption, but must ensure any reform on that front does not lead to government instability. In an email interview, Anna Derevyanko, the executive director of the European Business Association in Kiev, discussed Ukraine’s fight against corruption.
WPR: How widespread is corruption in Ukraine, and what impact does it have on governance, business and the daily life of Ukrainians?
Anna Derevyanko: Ukraine is the most corrupt country in Europe and one of the most corrupt countries in the world, according to Transparency International. Corruption is found on all levels—from large-scale corruption, such as bribery for public procurement contracts and favoritism in policymaking, to the so-called petty corruption that decreases the public’s trust in government institutions.
Government officials frequently inflate the value of public tenders, and bribery is common among tax officers and institutions involved in issuing permits and licenses. Systemic corruption is also found at Ukraine’s borders, allowing contraband goods to enter the country, and forcing importers to pay bribes for cargo to pass through customs.
Corruption, especially large-scale corruption, leads to too many economic uncertainties for investors, distorts the functioning of markets and ultimately eats into the nation’s wealth.
WPR: What efforts have been taken to curb corruption in Ukraine, how effective have they been, and what prevents further action from being taken?
Derevyanko: Ukraine has developed a number of anti-corruption laws, such as the State Anti-Corruption Strategy Implementation Program 2015–2017, and created several bodies that are responsible for anti-corruption efforts, including the National Anti-Corruption Bureau. But these efforts are not enough.
Attempts to eliminate corruption schemes that remain operational from the era of former President Viktor Yanukovych have been minimal. And penalties imposed for corruption offenses are inadequate. Inconsistent application of laws and lack of transparency and accountability ultimately mean corruption persists.
WPR: How prominent an issue is corruption in terms of public opinion, and how responsive have politicians been to public concerns about corruption?
Derevyanko: Large-scale political corruption is always in the public eye. But most alarming is the fact that government officials do not consider corruption to be morally wrong or a crime that should be penalized.
However, the Ukrainian public takes a different view. According to a recent study, 80 percent of Ukrainians said the government has not taken sufficient action against bribery and corruption.
There is a long list of needed reforms if Ukraine is to better tackle corruption, including increasing voter confidence and respect for the legal system, improving transparency and accountability of politicians, and establishing an independent and efficient judiciary as well as a free and active press. Until then, corruption will continue to be a problem for the country.