Party of Regions form over substance and the “car park corruption index” – Ukraine

May 29, 2013

There is much to be said for information/experience exchange – and we all love an all-expenses paid jolly under the auspices of education – however, it is only of any use if something is learned from the interaction and then put into practice.

The EU spent Euro millions on such exchanges, round tables, meetings et al, between 2006 and 2008 alone when it came to the Ukrainian judiciary.  The result was negligible, as the State handcuffs that control appointment, dismissal and thus coercively on occasion the ultimate verdict, were simply not removed by the EU funding of EU judges telling Ukrainian judges what they already know relating to the principles of the rule of law – and the EU knew that to be the case before spending this money but felt it had to be seen to being something regarding rule of law in Ukraine.

Thus the EU was seen to be trying to do something despite knowing the outcome in advance – form over substance for the global audience.

Form over substance runs through Ukrainian society at all levels.  Recently the Ukrainian press mocked the Polish Foreign Minister for wearing a $160 watch at a meeting with Ukrainian officials, when most RADA MPs, let alone ministers, wear watches of $60,000 – $600,000 in value.

The fact that Mr Sikorski is one of the brightest, most energetic and capable of all foreign ministers currently serving in that office across the entire European continent, regardless of the value of his watch, seemingly lost on the media.

Following along the form over substance path, we now have an announcement by the Party of Regions that it is going to  fund training for local heads of government in former Communist/now EU nations.  The reason, apparently, is “because local governments need guidance in working with investors. Investment attractiveness of cities is still very low, so even if there is a wish to build engineering or automotive plants, authorities in the field are not willing to accommodate them, including due to the communications problem.”

Now why would local authorities be unwilling to accommodate foreign investors?

The answer is not “communication” as is stated,  but what is contained within that communication with regards to what the feckless and corrupt local officials expect to be offered as a backhander to “accommodate” foreign investors – and Party of Regions know it – everybody in Ukraine knows it – I know it as I have witnessed it on numerous occasions personally when “opening the right doors” for others.

Quite simply if there is something in it – personally and immediately – either directly or indirectly by insuring the use of entities to which they have an “association” – for the local officials, “accommodation” is guaranteed.  If not, “accommodation” is simply not forthcoming.  Perhaps the “communications problem” referred to by Party Regions is about how best and how diplomatically that message should be conveyed?

Anybody with a modicum of intelligence knows that whether it be national or local government, the politicians are not politicians for the generous salaries Ukraine pays them.  Most of them drive cars that would have a greater value than the legitimate sum earned through public service during a full 5 year tenure in office, or 15 years of civil service.

This brings us to the “car park corruption index”.

A quick glance at any car park at any public/civil service building across Ukraine will provide a quick rule of thumb guide to just how expensive any “accommodation” is going to be.  Most have at minimum $ hundreds of thousands worth of cars sat outside owned by people officially earning a small fraction per annum of what these cars cost to buy.  Some offices have $ millions worth of cars sat in state administration car parks.

The “cost of doing business” can be oft foretold by the quantity and quality of the cars in a regional administrative office car park.  The more expensive the cars on the car park – the greater the “cost of doing business”.

Now of course, it is possible to go circumvent a regional administration that is “not accommodating” an investor – but that means RADA politicians and/or ministers, and getting to see such people can be far more costly than “communication” with the local government officials.  Even if doors are opened by official diplomatic means initially, a “cost of doing business” will rear its head further down the line commensurate with having involved a RADA member and thus remuneration for their time.

As all the above is common knowledge, and once more we have another farce attempting to provide a facade and thin veneer of respectability and plausibility over a simply corrupt practice that will continue relating to investors (domestic or foreign).

The simplest way to arrive at regional accommodation of investors by local government is to sack any local official that refuses to accommodate them, and where possible prosecute them if there is a legal mechanism to do so – won’t happen though, because this latest PR stunt is simply yet more form and no substance.

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