OpinionsGovernance Reform in Ukraine: A Window of Opportunity?

Governance Reform in Ukraine: A Window of Opportunity?

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In recent years, Ukraine has indeed embarked on an extensive process of administrative reform, in order to ensure a quality administrative act both for the smooth running of internal affairs and for compliance with international standards. This approach, formally started in 2016, is part of a broader framework along with the process of decentralization, tax reform and the development of e-governance, namely that of ensuring good governance.

The current stage

To observe the evolution of public perception of governance over the last decade, we can consider the aggregate indicators of governance used by the World Bank1, namely: (i) Voice and accountability, (ii) Political stability and the absence of violence/terrorism, (iii) Government effectiveness, (iv) Regulation quality, (v) Rule of law and (vi) Control of corruption. In the following chart, the estimate of the degree of governance is measured on a scale from -2.5 (weak) to +2.5 (solid).

Figure 1 – Governance Indicators (World Bank, September 2021)

The first indicator refers to the perception of the degree to which citizens can participate in the election of leaders and the fundamental freedoms in a democracy: of expression, of association and of the press. In the analyzed period (2010-2020), we note that this is the only indicator that has experienced a significant evolution, reaching a positive score in recent years (0.09 in 2020, compared to -0.08 in 2010). We can explain this trend as the expression of a democratic openness animated by the internal societal evolutions and by the more accentuated pro-European orientation of the last period.

The second indicator, which is sufficiently explicit, has a much more fluctuating evolution, which can be explained by the destabilizing events of 2014 which strongly affected the feeling of security and stability within Ukrainian society. This state of heightened insecurity was maintained throughout the term of Petro Poroshenko (2014-2019). However, we notice a gradual recovery of the climate starting with 2018, even if the score remains a negative one (-1.16 in 2020, much lower than in 2010 of -0.01).

The third indicator is one of the most complex and difficult to quantify, being the perception on the quality of services and public administration, on the degree of independence from political interference, on the quality of the process of formulating and implementing public policies and on the degree of trust in the ability of leaders to carry them out. In this case as well we notice a slightly upward trend, even if the score remains at the level of 2020 a negative one (-0.36, value, however, double compared to 2010). The OECD1 considers that this relatively low degree of trust in the government act is the expression of dysfunctions, which could still be overcome by an administrative reform oriented towards decentralization, provided that a favorable implementation framework is created.

The fourth indicator addresses the perception of government’s ability to formulate and implement policies and regulatory frameworks favorable to private sector development. It proves to be relatively stable in the analyzed time interval (-0.52 in 2010 compared to -0.30 in 2020), the score remaining also negative.

The fifth indicator includes public perceptions on the degree of trust in the regulations of society and their observance, whether it is contractual security and property rights, the quality of law enforcement (police, justice), and perceptions of the risk of crime. Here, too, we notice a relative constancy, with a significant upward trend, the value still remaining a negative one today (-0.67 in 2020, compared to -0.81 in 2010).

The last indicator is the one regarding the perception on the way in which power is exercised in personal interest, in all its forms: small and big corruption, the grabbing of the state by interest groups and oligarchic elites. In the analyzed interval, we find the lowest score in 2013 (-1.13), during the presidential term of Viktor Yanukovych, which increased to -0.78 in 2020. According to a report released by Transparency International in 20132, in Ukraine the most corrupt institutions are perceived as the judiciary, police and civil servants. This fact erodes confidence in the public administration as a whole and in democratic institutions in particular.

Looking at these data, we can conclude that in the last 5 years the public perception of governance has improved to a small extent. The most favorable perception concerns the democratic criterion (expression and accountability), and the most negative refers to the climate of security and stability. The other indicators did not experience drastic fluctuations, but only a slight upward trend, accentuated after 2016.

Once this climate of insecurity has stabilized, Ukrainian policymakers have the task of rebuilding public confidence in state institutions and authority, improving administrative capacity and the governance model. In this regard, the Kiev authorities adopted in July this year the Strategy for public administration reform for the period 2022-20253, which aims to continue and strengthen the efforts started in 2016 in this regard. The purpose of this programmatic document is to identify the necessary measures to ensure a successful administration, which ensures compliance with European standards and thus facilitates future integration into the European Union.

The first objective of the strategy is to provide quality services and ensure procedures that are accessible to users. The strategy also aims at human resources, more precisely the improvement of the quality of activity and the status of civil servant. Also, in terms of public service reform, it is desired to ensure adequate funding for the professional development of civil servants. This issue concerns several stages of the civil service, namely: recruiting employees with the support of specialized recruiters, motivating employees, and ensuring an adequate and competitive salary level, as well as their specialization and continuous development, according to an organizational culture, whose establishment should be supported. These measures, in their entirety, are seen as an indisputable necessity in order to ensure efficient management, which would blur the negative image that public institutions and their officials have in most Eastern European countries, especially due to the long and difficult democratic transition.

Given that this strategy is part of the larger project of ensuring good governance, it also aims to ensure effective governance. In this regard, measures should be targeted at establishing mechanisms that are effective in the development and implementation of long-term decisions.

It is envisaged that this strategy will be implemented in coordination with the one on financial management, being synchronized in terms of objectives, the status and dynamics of this coordination being permanently analyzed and evaluated in meetings attended by relevant parties.

Regarding the financing for the implementation of the strategy, it is mentioned that the main source will be the state budget, which will be supplemented by external financing.  Finally, the document emphasizes the need to communicate the priorities of the strategy during its implementation so as to ensure a high level of awareness and support for reform at stakeholder level.

Conclusion

The context in which Ukraine finds itself is rather complicated. On the one hand, from a geopolitical point of view, it has a fragile statehood that is disputed both internally and externally. On the other hand, it faces numerous internal challenges: social and ethno-cultural cleavages, a “plurality of rules” generated by the existence of oligarchic networks (Balthasar & Druey, 2017), an outdated institutional-administrative system, etc. This current status has left its mark on the governing act, calling for a deep and multi-level reform of the governance model.

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