The current budget for road maintenance in Ukraine sits at $16.9 billion – which sounds, and indeed is, a lot of money – and yet the state of Ukrainian roads resembles something like those of Berlin circa 1945 after the 363 air raids to which it was subjected by bomber command.
As such, Vice Prime Minister Oleksandr Vilkul has made very forceful representations to increase the annual road maintenance budget to $40 billion – almost a 300% increase.
He also proposes to reorganise the accountability of those responsible for road maintenance. In short, the 117.7 thousand kilometers of regional roads will become the personal responsibility of the heads of the regional state authorities – thus removing the involvement of Ukrautodor, the State agency responsible for road maintenance, leaving it responsible for a paltry 52 kilometers of State adopted roads.
Naturally there is an increased opportunity for either direct theft of funds, or cronyism and associated kick-backs, but there is also a very clear area of responsibility and indeed personal responsibility for road maintenance within the regions – which is a good thing.
Odessa, March 2013
The above is a rather extreme example of holes in the road in Odessa I will grant – most are only ankle deep, but there are so many ankle deep holes that the 1.5 million residents of Odessa could all put a foot in each hole and there would still be more holes than feet to put in them!
The question relating to the solid lobbying for such a massive increase in funding is really whether it has been worked out on a cost basis for maintenance alone – or whether there is a percentage included for the undoubted graft that will occur at regional level to be plundered for personal gain, and yet still provide a significant and noticeable difference to the quality of the regional road infrastructure.
With no noticeable improvements over the decade I have lived in Odessa at $16.9 billion annually – what improvements will $40 billion annually get me?
A positive outcome will only be forthcoming if some regional authority heads are suddenly lopped off should road quality remain exceptionally poor I suspect – but I won’t hold my breath for that to happen!