Control the paternalism and keep off the grass!

December 13, 2014

One of the most annoying features of the feckless Ukrainian political class, both historically and currently, is that every political leader that has held the two highest offices in the land, has often overstepped the boundaries of their office within which most would expect them to remain – and at times the boundaries the Constitution dictates they should.

The result of these all too frequent transgressions are sometimes tragic, occasionally comical, though usually a tragicomedy is presented to the domestic and international audience.

Ukraine is, of course, well accustomed to attempts at oneupmanship between a feuding president and prime minister, but it also witnesses the unnecessary trampling across the metaphorical ministerial grass of any department of State on a presidential or prime ministerial whim, whether the motivation be a conscious and perhaps justified effort to put the relevant Minister’s in their place – or whether it be an unconsciously paternalistic meandering onto the metaphorical grass for no apparent reason, and in doing so publicly undermining the relevant Minister in the process.

It is perhaps the latter, unconscious paternalistic stomping across various ministerial lawns unnecessarily that is the most annoying – especially if in the process it is perceived to belittle a good Minister in doing so.

It has already become clear that on occasion both the President, and some within his administration, are having great difficulty restraining themselves from crossing constitutional parameters within which they have responsibility, and making unwelcome trespass upon the constitutionally set lawns of the Cabinet of Ministers and the parliament.

However, Prime Minister Yatsenyuk has just as much difficulty in staying off the lawns of his various Ministers and their ministries.

An example of which was seen yesterday.  Prime Minister Yatseniuk stated “In order to prevent a default, we need an international donor conference.”  The new, very clever Finance Minister (and now Ukrainian citizen) Natalie Jaresko, however stating “We have not default and even not pre-default state. Today this issue is not even discussed in the government.”

Well, what to say?

If default is not being discussed within the government, then Prime Minister Yatseniuk is certainly discussing it outside the hallowed halls of the RADA and/or the Finance Ministry building.  His quote unambiguous in its mention of default.

Perhaps Ms Jaresko didn’t get the memo about the meeting where default was discussed?  Perhaps Prime Minister Yatseniuk feels he doesn’t need to discuss default with the Finance Minister before talking about it publicly?

Who suffers most from these seemingly contradictory public statements?  Mr Yatseniuk? Ms Jaresko?  The government as a whole?

The point with the above example is not whether Mr Yatseniuk or Ms Jaresko is right or wrong – they are probably both right, in that Ukraine will need about $15 billion in additional external finance to avoid default, and also that default has not yet been discussed within government (officially at least).

The point is the apparent contradiction (even if there really isn’t one) between the two statements, and thus the appearance of singing from a different song sheet, in a different key, and to a different rhythm, as far as perceptions are concerned.  A display of a seemingly unnecessarily discombobulated tune.  The impression of disjointed governance is projected – and that is the point being made.

Whilst as Prime Minister, Mr Yatseniuk is certainly entitled to walk on the Finance Ministry grass, does that mean he has to, needs to, or should do?  When the new Finance Minister was chased down by the Ukrainian State for the position, requiring her to change her citizenship in order to fill the role they wanted her to fill, is it not truly bad form that one of her first public statements is forced unnecessarily to appear to contradict that of the Prime Minister?

Indeed, does it not make sense, with the bonus of adding to the perception of personal responsibility and public recognition, to let the Finance Minister speak about finance, to let the Interior Minister talk about new biometric passports, to let the Education Minister talk about changes to university accreditation etc?  Why is it that the Prime Minister feels compelled to make announcements about all the aforementioned and more, that these Ministers can and should be making instead?  He doesn’t have enough to do as Prime Minister without becoming the ministerial spokesperson for every ministry, over every single issue?


If Ukraine ever reforms its judiciary to anything close to what it should be, then any self-respecting judiciary will be swift to warn off any interfering politicians that dare stray upon the newly manicured judicial lawns.  Likewise the media.  It would therefore be good practice to stop unnecessarily stomping across the ministerial grass of other Minister’s where ever and whenever possible.

There is a dire need for the most senior in the Ukrainian government to control their paternalistic compulsions and stop trampling upon the ministerial lawns of others unnecessarily.  Ministers need to be able to act and speak publicly for the sake of their own credibility, to be seen to accept their personal responsibility for their ministries, and also for the sake of public recognition.  They should not be wondering if the PM or President is going to come rushing across their metaphorical ministerial lawn, push them rudely into a shrubbery, hijack the press conference, and state something entirely contrary to what was about to be said.

In addition, it will soon become extremely tiresome to see only President Poroshenko or Prime Minister Yatseniuk on prime-time television.  Familiarity breeds contempt after all.

It is now time to neuter the Soviet paternalistic gene that consistently gets the better of Ukrainian politicians when they achieve the highest offices in the land.  Let others take, and be seen to take, the responsibilities that they are given.  Learn to stay of the grass unless necessary.  In doing so there will be far fewer entirely avoidable public faux pas!


One comment

  1. The “long view”, not something to be executed by the inheritors of power – shamefully.

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