23 березня 2011 р.

Regional policy in Ukraine - changes without effect

It will never stop to amaze me, the way Ukrainian regional policy is always a victim of political battles, broken electoral promises, concepts that have been misunderstood and legislation that has not been implemented.

It is not even exciting anymore when President (or Prime Minister) makes announcement that the development of regions and regional governance is going to be their number one priority for this (next) year. That's happened so many times already and still we have system of half-baked, half-broken instruments that try to inject modern approaches to regional development in the old-style centralised bureaucratic system. That is why recent announcement of President Yanukovych at the Council of Regions that reform of regional governance is going to be his priority in 2011 has not stirred my emotions.

Instead I am looking at facts of life. 4 months since launch of major administrative reform and not a single ministry has approved new structure, list of functions and payroll. Ministry of Construction and Regional Development is being literally swallowed by new functions of communal housing which were transfered from late Ministry of communal housing. And once again my dear regional policy will be lost in the list of 30 key functions of newly created behemoth. It is only if it is not yet again transferred to the Ministry of Economic Development (where it was housed till very recently), which in itself is even bigger monster that sucked in functions of dozens liquidated ministries and agencies. Though admittedly MinEcon's analytical capacity and mandate are much stronger and thus there are greater chances for policy to be effectively developed and implemented (after of course transferring back the backbone of Regional Policy Department from Ministry of Construction etc).

It seems like the new structure of central government will be based not on the principles of efficiency and complementarity of functions, but on the principles of power - the strongest minister will get the biggest portfolio.

At the same time all talks of decentralisation and giving regions and localities more say in the issues of socio-economic development are dimmed to remain slogans as president and his administration are back as masters and commanders after recent constitutional changes. They sack and appoint people in oblasts and rayons, usually without engaging local leaders, they liquidate local councils in one day (as it happened in Kyiv), change legislation in one week and channel funding as they see fit. All this without proper public consultations.

Though of course,  there are many experts who would confirm that public 'does not care' and is more interested in stability and predictability. But the question is have we tried enough?

Well, there is stability in everything but regional policy in Ukraine!

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