Is Ukraine lost? Again? Is the social contract between state and citizens fundamentally flawed?
We are now well past the “honeymoon period” of the post-Maidan street protests that ultimately led to the rather fast departure of the then president Yanikovich, who fled to Russia in 2014.
A spate of ministerial resignations at the start of 2016, an economy in dire straits and with a huge external debt overhang, having lost up to a third of its economic base from the loss of territories and ongoing conflict with Russia and being supported by western-supported international financial institution packages including dollops of soft EU macro-financial assistance, a false dawn with the so-called Orange revolution in 2004 and the Maidan of 2014…so which way reform?
Before I answer these questions, I invite you to view this video of a recent Cabinet meeting – it is fairly X rated… and it gives a flavour of the difficulties of copy-pasting a reform agenda without genuine political will and huge conflicts of interest. Many will have recognised Mikheil Saakashvili, who was former president of Georgia and now part of a group Georgian bureaucrats, fluent in Russian, brought in to help support the reform effort and given Ukrainian citizenships jousting (with glasses of water) with the Minister of Interior responsible for the police and security services, himself an “oligarch”.
My starting point is to look at the data. And the picture is mixed. Global Governance indicators (that basically hoover up all available country risk indicators published) show that Government Effectiveness has risen.
But Rule of Law?
Not so good – in fact its even worse. And the picture is the same when looking at Regulatory quality or perceptions of corruption.
Ukraine’s (Lithuanian-Ukrainian) minister for economic development and trade, Aivaras Abromavicius, announced his resignation in early February, citing corruption levels in the state.
Neither me, nor my team have any desire to serve as a cover-up for the covert corruption, or become puppets for those who, very much like the ‘old’ government, are trying to exercise control over the flow of public funds
… saying what many have been complaining, that there are too many bent officials trying to continue their corrupt ways.
There is now a real political risk that the government will fall, possibly through a vote of no confidence. And there is scant evidence, despite a flurry of ad-hoc measures, of a clear roadmap of reform – which is worryingly familiar territory given previous false dawns and stabilisation plans effectively written at the IMF.
Despite a huge groundswell of popular support in what remains of Ukraine for a pro-EU direction of travel, it is not an EU candidate country forced to go through hoops and checklists to comply with the EU body of law, the acquis.
The disconnect between the elite and the rest is the effect, but the fusion of political and economic control in the hands of this narrow elite that is an unfortunate legacy in most of the ex-Soviet space is THE core root cause.