Only Capable United Territorial Communities Support the Vitality of the Regions in the Coronavirus Outbreak

18.06.2020

What were the consequences of lobbying in the formulation of prospective plans? Will it be possible to approve amendments to the Constitution of Ukraine in the field of decentralization? What to do with neighbourhoods: eliminate or reduce the number of? This was discussed by participants of the online event “Regional Discussion of Reforms: On the Road to Vilnius” on the topic of decentralization reform organized by the RPR Coalition on April 2.

Under conditions of COVID-19 and quarantine, the livelihoods of cities and villages are being supported by the capable united territorial communities providing the residents with necessary protective supplies. The Director of the Institute of Civil Society, Anatoliy Tkachuk, emphasizes the issue.

Presenting the draft analytical brief “Deсentralization“, he named the main challenges of  this reform:

  • lobbying during the formulation of prospective plans;
  • lack of communication with regional elites and political parties;
  • binding of future regular local elections and elections in the occupied territories of Donbas;
  • financial problems;
  • institutional problems.

Recommendations regarding prioritised actions for 2020-2021:

  • Strengthen the capacity of the institutions: staffing Regional State Administrations and District state administrations with qualified personnel, approving a new net of salaries for employees of local governments.
  • Adopt Bill No. 2653 “On Amendments to the Law of Ukraine “On Local Self-Government in Ukraine”.
  • Do not bind completion of the reform until the Constitution of Ukraine is amended.
  • Adopt the Law on State Strategic Planning, which should remove contradictions in strategic planning carried out by different ministries.
  • In 2020, complete the formation of a system of strategic planning documents – the National Development Strategy of Ukraine, the National Strategy for Regional Development, the General Scheme of Planning of the Territory of Ukraine, regional development strategies.

Lobbying in the formulation of prospective plans could not be eliminated due to the influence of some political forces and political games at the regional level. The People’s Deputy, the Chairman of the Subcommittee on Administrative and Territorial System Vitalii Bezgin, spoke about it.

The mistake in the preparation of the bill No. 2598 “On Amendments to the Constitution of Ukraine (on decentralization of power)” called the People’s Deputy a lack of communication.

“This bill was not lousy, but the government’s fault was the lack of communication with the associations and the expert environment. It’s good that the public got involved in the discussion,” Bezgin says.

He also rejected the possibility of linking future local elections with elections in the occupied territories of Donbas.

“The local elections may not start on schedule – October 25, 2020, due to quarantine, not to mention the election in the government uncontrolled areas in Donbas,” the MP sums up.

Policy and local development expert Oleksandr Solontay suggested initially holding elections in the Donbas-controlled area since in some settlements local elections took place 10 years ago.

Because of lobbying, prospective plans failed to create viable districts, says decentralization expert Yuri Ganushchak.

“In areas such as Kirovohrad and Ivano-Frankivsk, feudalism is simply off the charts,” says the expert.

“At the regional level, only some communities can cope with the situation around the coronavirus,” he adds.

Ganuchak predicts no changes in the Constitution of Ukraine in the field of decentralization due to lack of confidence in the authorities in the field of adoption of these changes.

But the chairman of the Center for Political and Legal Reforms, Ihor Koliushko, disagrees with him.

“We have a chance to get a good draft law on amendments to the Constitution, given the transparent process of discussion with the expert community, which began several months ago,” Koliushko said.

According to him, in the area of decentralization at the subregional level, experts support the elimination or reduction of areas: to transform the existing 490 districts into 110.

“The expert environment overwhelmingly opposes the creation of small areas of up to 150,000 people. The optimum size of the area is 200-250 thousand inhabitants,” sums up the chairman of the Centre of Policy and Legal Reform board.

To solve the financial problems of united territorial communities, the Executive Director of the Association of Cities of Ukraine Oleksandr Slobozhan proposed to focus on the problems of budget decentralization, which has not existed since 2019.

“Without improving the mechanism of functioning of the State Regional Development Fund, the funds allocated to it are better directed to direct these funds to other directions,” adds Slobozhan.

The 100 newly formed united territorial communities do not yet have direct budgetary relations, and the process of eliminating village councils remains unresolved. This was discussed by the advisor on decentralization and local self-government of the Rivne Regional Office of the U-LEAD Program with Europe, Mykhailo Shelep.

One of the main problems of united territorial communities, an expert on decentralization and local self-government, Sergei Romanovich, calls the shortage of personnel.

“Personnel hunger is especially felt in communities that are formed exclusively from villages,” the expert summarizes.

“Regional Discussion of Reforms” is organized by the RPR Coalition in partnership with the Embassy of the Republic of Lithuania. The event is supported by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Lithuania and the EU Anti-Corruption Initiative in Ukraine (EUACI – the programme is financed by the European Union and co-financed and implemented by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark).

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