External threats to Ukraine from Russia have dominated the news, but as that situation starts to stabilize the country will need to confront an old, internal enemy, the Peterson Institute’s Anders Åslund writes for the Wall Street Journal:
Transparency International ranks Ukraine 144 out of 177 countries on its corruption-perception index. Corruption was at the heart of popular discontent with the deposed regime of Viktor Yanukovych, and widespread graft helps explain why the economy stalled in 2012 and 2013. Kiev must tackle this problem urgently, even as its leaders confront Russia’s territorial ambitions.
Cleansing Ukraine of its corruption will require several interrelated measures. In this regard, Estonia and Georgia have shown the way, he argues in an article adapted from a longer essay that appeared in the Journal of Democracy:
To begin with, the state needs to limit its regulatory role by abolishing or merging many state agencies. Minimizing state interference in the economy—whether by privatizing state-owned assets or cutting regulations—reduces opportunities for corruption in the first place.
The government should also cut public expenditures, and corrupted subsidies must be eliminated. The deregulation of gas and electricity prices in this case must be seen as a matter of combating corruption, not as a social issue. The poor can be given targeted cash compensation instead. The tax system also needs to be simplified and the tax police abolished, to shield taxpayers from lawless persecution. Ukraine has recently adopted a law on public procurement requiring open public tenders, and voters should demand their leaders follow that law to the letter.
Officials also must focus on delivering reliable rule of law. This should entail the creation of an independent commission scrutinizing all the top judges and prosecutors in Ukraine and dismissing those found to have engaged in graft.
“The people are angry as little is changing, reforms are not being implemented, and corruption is not being fought,” says Ukraine scholar Taras Kuzio, referring to a spate of violent attacks on politicians with strong ties to the ousted Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych. “The anger unleashed by the Euromaidan remains, but elites are not implementing the changes that would reduce tension.”
But these attacks, by the Ukrainian nationalist group Right Sector , do little to inspire confidence in a successful parliamentary election on October 26 and the reforms that are expected to follow, Linda Kinstler writes for the New Republic:
These so-called “people’s lustration” efforts could quickly unravel everything that the Maidan revolution accomplished. In a Facebook post on Tuesday, Ukrainian Interior Minister Arsen Avakov issued a plea for an end to this variety of political activism: “Another couple of Shufrichs [with] smashed faces and lynched Pylypyshyns, and Europe will turn its back on the revolution we’ve won. I am afraid that America will, too.” Much to the delight of RT, the leader of Ukraine’s Radical Party, Oleh Lyashko, responded by suggesting that perhaps it’s time for Avakov, too, to be thrown into a dumpster.
“By signing the Association Agreement with the European Union, Ukraine has committed itself to adopting hundreds of reform laws, while the EU has committed itself to providing substantial technical assistance in drawing up new laws and reorganizing state agencies,” notes Åslund. “That deal is on hold for now, but Brussels and Kiev can still find ways to move forward. Those parts of the agreement that target corruption, for example, should be a priority; as should building a strong and independent judicial system.”
Mr. Åslund is a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics and author of “How Ukraine Became a Market Economy and Democracy” (Peterson Institute, 2009).