Ukraine struggles to shake off legacy of kleptocracy


A case of possible influence-peddling under review by Ukraine’s National Anti-Corruption Bureau is hardly the only worrying sign for a government swept into power in 2014 on a wave of popular anger at the egregious corruption of the previous president, Viktor F. Yanukovych, with promises of cleansing Ukraine of its endemic corruption and establishing a modern, Western-oriented democracy, The New York Times reports:

But over the winter, with Kiev, the capital, buzzing with allegations that Mr. Poroshenko’s people cutting back-room deals to control state assets, the I.M.F. quietly suspended disbursements. When the fund’s board convenes in Washington this summer, it will have to decide whether to resume the payments. To reopen the financial spigot, it must certify that the money will be used to help Ukraine overhaul its economy, rather than line the pockets of the country’s politicians and the powerful class of ultrawealthy businessmen known as the oligarchs.

“They are like bad students, always saying, ‘Professor, just wait until Monday; I will do better,’” said Tymofiy S. Mylovanov, president of the Kiev School of Economics. “Nothing changed. The same elites are there. The same oligarchs.”

But recent events show significant progress for a government that just months ago was debilitated by infighting and rumored to be heading toward early elections, according to a Stratfor analysis:

After coming to power following the Euromaidan uprising at the beginning of 2014, the ruling coalition lost many of its allies over differences, causing the IMF to freeze the assistance necessary to repair Ukraine’s battered economy. In early April, then-Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk resigned amid the turmoil, and Poroshenko loyalist Volodymyr Groysman replaced him a few days later. The new administration has since faced intense pressure to deliver on the promised reforms or risk another collapse.

“If the reform drives continue, they will be an important step toward unlocking IMF financial assistance and other Western funding, which would lend the Groysman government greater legitimacy,” Stratfor suggests. “If the Ukrainian economy begins to grow again in 2016, as it is projected to do, it could empower Grosyman’s government to enact even more reforms.”

Much has changed since the Revolution of Dignity, argues Sergii Leshchenko, a Ukrainian journalist and a member of the Verkhovna Rada. Corruption is no longer met with silence, he writes for Transitions Online.

“Abuses of power are discussed on TV and in parliament. It’s cool to be an investigative journalist, and there are several anti-corruption programs on state TV channels,” adds Leshchenko (right), a former Reagan-Fascell fellow at the National Endowment for Democracy:

Parliament has become a forum for clashes of opinion. It reflects every population group in Ukraine. There are daily confrontations between “old” and “new” politicians; between “kleptocrats” and “reformers”; between democratic values and antediluvian corruption; between the oligarchs’ commodity-based economics and small business. RTWT

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