Ukraine’s resistance to allow civil society experts to play a role in establishing the anti-corruption bureau remains “a major source of contention,” the International Monetary Fund said in a staff discussion note published Wednesday. The note, titled “Corruption: Costs and Mitigating Strategies,” reported that the IMF had recently suspended lending in Ukraine for “governance and corruption issues,” The Moscow Times reports:
“I am concerned about Ukraine’s slow progress in improving governance and fighting corruption, and reducing the influence of vested interests in policymaking,” the IMF Managing Director on Ukraine said in a February press release. The IMF team arrived in Kiev on Tuesday following the formation of a new Ukrainian government after a political crisis had stalled the release of financial aid.
If one were to merely follow national politics in Ukraine, it would be easy to become discouraged about the state of reforms, notes Katie LaRoque, the International Republican Institute’s Ukraine Program Officer. Headlines from top media suggest that Ukraine’s longstanding oligarchic power structures and institutionalized corruption have persisted in the wake of the Revolution of Dignity, frustrating citizens and the international community. Indeed, the many criticisms of President Petro Poroshenko and parliament are not unfounded, she writes for The Atlantic Council:
A recent national survey conducted by IRI [a core institute of the National Endowment for Democracy] found record-level public dissatisfaction regarding the country’s overall direction—a level of frustration that rivals the pre-Maidan period. Seventy-six percent of Ukrainians told pollsters the country was headed in the wrong direction in February 2016. Similarly, as previously reported, IRI’s March 2016 nationwide municipal survey, which contains the perceptions of more than 19,000 Ukrainians from twenty-four major cities, revealed that more than 90 percent of Ukrainians believe corruption is a significant or serious problem in their community, and frustration with Poroshenko and the parliament stands at troubling levels.
But that’s not the full story. If one looks beyond the negative headlines, real change is happening in Ukraine, LaRoque adds:
It is less evident on the national level (although the government’s recent gas reforms are a major step forward), but one needn’t look too far beyond Kyiv to see signs of progress. IRI’s longstanding presence in Ukraine’s regions has revealed positive signs of local governments and civic actors working together to achieve and implement real change in their communities—and these efforts have been noticed by the Ukrainian people. IRI’s polling shows that support for local governments is on the rise, as is the level of trust and approval of local mayors across the country.