Archive for July, 2015

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Mykolaiv police chiefs move to Odessa

July 31, 2015

It appears Giya Lordkipanidze, one time Deputy Interior Minister in Georgia, and now Odessa Oblast Police Chief, will imminently have a new set of department heads for the Oblast and the city.

Appointed as Deputy Chief of Police Odessa City, is Alexander Martynov.  Until recently Colonel Martynov was head of the serious crime investigation department of Mykolaiv Oblast.

The new head of the City Police criminal investigation department is Major Taras Pedak, previously employed within the Serious and Organised Crime department for Mykolaiv Oblast, heading the terrorism and extremism team there.

With regards to Odessa Oblast, (rather than the city of Odessa), Lieutenant Colonel Stanislav Baklanov who headed the Mykolaiv Oblast Serious and Organised Crime department is now to become the Deputy Police Chief of Odessa Oblast.

Vitaly Vdovichenko will become Deputy Chief of the Oblast criminal investigation department, having served until now within the Mykolaiv Serious and Organised Crime department.

Mykolaiv it appears, now has vacancies to fill following these officers successful applications for the above roles in Odessa.

All very good – insofar as it goes.

Importing experienced investigators, as these men clearly are, from a neighbouring Oblast is a fairly reasonable thing to do.  They arrive without any nefarious ties to the local, and increasingly entrenched nefarious Odessa elites, and yet possess a fairly good understanding of the Oblast’s geography, as well as local, regional and national policing issues from day one in their new jobs.

If, as the saying goes, a fish rots from the head downwards, then a new head may if not stop the rot entirely, at least slow the decay in the body, allowing the body to be effectively treated.

Thus we return to the tired but nonetheless still critically relevant 3 themes that dominate the past months within this blog that are vital to the reformation of both Oblast and Ukraine – rule of law, institutional/administrative structure and sustainability.

New heads to the regional institutional policing structure does not equate to a structure that is designed for quality and/or efficient policing.  There are a number of policing units/divisions/departments that can have their specialisms (and officers) incorporated into others reducing management requirements and associated turf wars over areas of competency overlaps and budgetary demands.

As Odessa under its current Governor seems extremely keen to host as many pilot projects as possible, then perhaps it is the Oblast (given the very watchful eyes of external and influential supporters that currently gaze upon it) to restructure its Oblast policing as yet another pilot project.

There is a pressing requirement to address the individual policing needs of various districts within the Oblast, and where necessary to create temporary district teams to address certain issues robustly before dissolving those teams once those issues are addressed.

odessa

In short, the “hot spots” and “hot policing priorities” of Ismail are not going to be the same as those in Liubashivka.

If, for example, juvenile crime is a major problem in Illichovsk, and agricultural theft is a problem in Brezivka, then clearly a bespoke police response is required to deal with those specific issues in a direct, focused, and timely way.

Thus a streamlined, efficient policing structure (compared to that which currently operates) is required, but one that is also flexible enough to deal with, and be seen to deal with, diverse local issues in a very timely way.

Local area policing plans are both preventative, responsive, and also bespoke to the local area.  They should form part of the Oblast policing plan.  The regional plan sets out the policing priorities within the Oblast and identifies the specific areas raised in LAPs.

That Oblast plan should be a publicly available document, for policing occurs (best) with the consent (and understanding) of the constituency.  Society is more supportive when it understands what any policing effort is trying to do – particularly where they actually live and the local concerns it seeks to address.

Structure and sustainability.

Nevertheless, the introduction of police chiefs that are not contaminated by the local elites (yet) is a welcome move.

Unfortunately the swift replacement of local prosecutors seems somewhat more difficult for the Oblast due to a distinct lack of local applicants without potentially problematic associations.  It is perhaps necessary to cast (and actively promote) a wider net once again.

Then there is the issue of the courts – no doubt subject to numerous future entries depending upon the outcome of Constitutional change.

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Meanwhile back in Bessarabia…..

July 30, 2015

It has been quite some time since “Bessarabia” was last mentioned here – quite simply because the Potemkin manifestation hasn’t really manifested (outside of a few websites and an extremely small number of people’s imaginations and/or aspirations for 15 minutes of fame).

Nevertheless, a “veche” took place in the Kominternovsky region of Odessa Oblast yesterday, the outcome of which saw Aleksandr Yankov, a former senior Oblast prosecutor, nominated “Governor” of Bessarabia.  That appointment being backed by the “leader of the Bessarabian parliament” Vera Shevchenko – who didn’t actually attend the “veche”.

Naturally anti-Poroshenko and anti-Saakashvili statements were made by the newly appointed “Governor”, which actually defies the current political reality for the tiny part of Odessa Oblast that was once historically part of Bessarabia – At least it defies political reality to anybody who understands the politics of the Oblast.

Anton Cisse

Anton Cisse

Regardless of holding the office of President and Governor respectively, political and business power in that tiny southwestern most part of the Oblast is actually wielded by Anton Cisse MP (who is also leader of the ethnic Bulgarians there).  His influence in that part of the Oblast is (almost) omnipresent – unlike that of the President or Governor.

Anton Cisse is no political ally of President Poroshenko, and therefore by extension is no political ally of Governor Saakashvili – however he is not stupid either.  Indeed he is nobody’s fool.

Mr Cisse is quite capable of looking across the border to Transnistria and seeing what a basket case it is, particularly economically.  As a businessman first and foremost (and a politician secondly) there is simply no gain for him in any form of separatist movement within his stronghold that would move his patch toward an economic disaster area whilst also eschewing it from Odessa, its infrastructure, and its wealth.

Neither would he take kindly to his small fiefdom becoming a second devastated Donbas for the sake of an illusionary Bessarabia.

Certainly he is not about to pooh-pooh, Governor Saakashvili’s plan to begin a new major road from Odessa to Reni, and thus into his fiefdom.

Thus, no matter what sympathies Mr Cisse may have (or not) for the Kremlin inspired “Bessarabia project” Mr Cisse, and his very loyal ethic Bulgarian constituents, are not about to sanction, encourage, give any meaningful support to, or lead the charge for, an independent/autonomous/ Bessarabia any time soon.

Without Mr Cisse’s overt and energetic support, Bessarabia will remain a historical entry in history books, a (very poorly funded) Kremlin destabilisation project, a fantasy in the heads of a few deluded individuals and content within a couple of websites.

Further, it gives the Ukrainian SBU, Moldavian SIS and Romanian SIE intelligence services all the more reason to simultaneously be poking about in Mr Cisse’s backyard a little more forcefully/overtly than usual – something that will not sit particularly well for very long.

Nevertheless, it will be interesting to see the results of the local elections at the end of October – perhaps “Bessarabian candidates” will take control of  Kominternovsky in its entirety, or a village somewhere within?  Then again, perhaps not.

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Public interest, interesting to the public, or telegraphing time to flee?

July 29, 2015

A few weeks ago an entry appeared her that contained this paragraph:

“We could perhaps then spend an enjoyable summer speculating upon just how many, and which, MPs and Judges would fail to return to Ukrainian jurisdiction from their holidays if such immunity was lifted.”

It appears (not unsurprisingly) that this may indeed be the case.

Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin has announced that come September and the return of the Rada, the PGO intends to ask the Rada to strip several ex-Regionaires who are currently MPs of their immunity and arrest.

shokin

“As of today, the PGO is preparing a submission to the Verkhovna Rada to strip them of their parliamentary immunity and to arrest.

The investigators have identified persons who earlier belonged to the Party of Regions faction and now are incumbent MPs.”

Although it is not stated, these individuals are rumoured to have been involved in crimes within and surrounding the Ministry of Education during the Yanukovych regime.  Whilst no names have yet leaked, it would be no surprise to discover one such MP will be from Odessa – although it would be quite wrong to presage any eventual announcements or name names.

All jolly good – or is it?

Such transparency from the PGO is to be welcomed isn’t it?

Perhaps.

Whilst these suspected MPs currently enjoy immunity (and impunity), there can be absolutely no doubt whatsoever that those who are suspects in this investigation will discover they are so, long before the Rada resumes in September.

In fact, so leaky are the institutions of State, the names of the suspects will be known within days – if not hours – by the media, but not before the nefarious come to know they are in the frame and have time to make either petitions to mitigate, make deliberations to go to trial, attempt to rally enough MPs to their cause to defeat any motion to strip their immunity and allow arrest, or decisions are reached to flee.

There is nothing to prevent those suspects from leaving Ukraine today, tomorrow, or up until/if their immunity is lifted.  As predicted some weeks ago, those that fear the law will eventually catch up with their (numerous and continuous) illicit activities may decide not to return to Ukraine from their legislative holidays, preferring to stay in their properties abroad (west London and Switzerland in the case of the Odessa MP who may well turn out to be a suspect – needless to say, much of his fortune also sits in these nations too).

It is time to be very, very blunt.

The Ukrainian leadership needs to start jailing senior, (in)famous people and being seen to apply the rule of law to the very highest echelons of the political and business elite.

The continued opening of numerous criminal investigations and allowing those suspected to continually flee and disappear prior to arrest in most cases, and certainly prior to trial in almost every case, cannot continue any longer.

The Ukrainian constituency will only begin to have any faith in the equal application of the rule of law when it starts to see tens of investigations (not one or two), passing through the judicial system, and arriving at sentencing and jail time for the highly corrupted elite no differently than the corrupted minions at the bottom of the institutional food chains.

Justice has to be done and seen to be done.  Serious people have to start being jailed (after due process).

The question therefore arises over the need for the Prosecutor General’s statement yesterday, which has provided a good deal of due warning to those suspected, or that believe they may be suspects, prior to any Rada vote to strip their immunity.

As recent events have shown, those MPs with immunity, when it becomes clear their immunity will be stripped by the Rada, have had sufficient time even during the day of Rada voting, to flee whilst that immunity remains.  (A legacy of the Rada still having not removed its own immunity en masse.)

This being so, was the Prosecutor General’s statement in the public interest, interesting to the public, or a (deliberate or otherwise) telegraphing to those that are suspects/believe they may be suspects in the case to flee, or simply not return from their holidays.

Whatever points this is supposed to score with the Ukrainian constituency psyche, when those suspects again disappear and once again fail face the rule of law and ultimately jail time, it will further underscore the perception that there is no real attempt to put the guilty elites in jail.

It will also test the patience of Ukraine’s international supporters, if once again, nobody goes to jail following high profile investigations.

The timing and therefore wisdom of this announcement is thus perhaps somewhat questionable.

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A new way of doing politics – Ukraine? Ukrop

July 28, 2015

On 18th June 2015, Ihor Kolomoisky received official certification for his newly formed political party “Ukrop” from the Ministry of Justice of Ukraine.

Gennady Korban, who featured in yesterday’s entry in a rather, albeit deservedly, in a less than flattering way (as did his main rival), upon the registration of “Ukrop” – “A new chapter appeared in the history of Ukrainian politics. Remember this day. It can be a turning point for Ukraine and for those who care about the fate of our country.”

If the illegal and odious events surrounding his campaign activities in Chernigov are a new chapter in Ukrainian politics, then that new chapter would seem almost a carbon copy of the previous one.

As yesterday’s entry stated – “So having expected a complete farce as soon as it became clear more than two months ago that this election seat was little more than a proxy fight between President Poroshenko and Ihor Kolomoisky backed candidates, has it turned out to be the expected proxy battle and associated farce?

Undoubtedly so.”

and

“That (probably with the tacit approval or by discrete request) Governor Saakashvili arrived late into the campaigning to support the President’s man, Mr Berezenko, to be met in an unnecessarily ugly face to face by Ihor Kolomoisky’s MP Boris Filatov supporting Mr Korban, when the election was already a farce beyond doubt, raises questions of sound leadership, situational awareness, and domestic/international perception. A polished turd remains a turd, no matter who polishes it.

Yet another (and completely avoidable) proxy battle between Mr Kolomoisky and the President now wages via Messrs Saakashvili and Filatov.

As of the time of writing, exit polls have the President’s man, Mr Berezenko winning with 31.4% of the vote vis a vis Mr Kolomoisky’s man Mr Korban sitting on 17.1%. Whatever the voting results however, the 27 (and growing) officially recorded electoral violations must be investigated, and this public farce cannot be undone easily.

The question is now whether the CEC of its own volition (or via encouragement from upon high) will declare the election invalid – or not.”

Sadly the return to the all too familiar of the squalid politics throughout the history of an independent Ukraine surrounding majority single mandate seats in particular.

"For buckwheat and small change I'm not for sale"

“For buckwheat and small change I’m not for sale”

What then, with Ukrop’s first romp into Ukrainian politics being a carbon copy of all the cancerous and discredited politics of Ukrainian past, can in any way be deemed as “a new chapter” proclaimed by Mr Korban when Ukrop was successfully registered?

Presumably it can only be that Ihor Kolomoisky is not hiding the fact the he is behind this political party, when historically he backed certain parties and certain politicians across all party lines behind the curtain – no differently to all the major oligarchy.

Therefore we are to understand that “a new chapter” means the thinly veiled interference and odious influence of the oligarchy within Ukrainian politics has been lifted – at least in part – rather than “a new chapter” being strict adherence to electoral rules and the principles of democratic processes?

(No doubt Mr Kolomoisky will continue to fund other parties and specific individuals across the party lines as will other oligarchs such as Messrs Firtash, Lavochkin et al. – unless prevented.)

Clearly the “Ukrop” party will have extensive funding for the local elections that yesterday it announced it would take part in nationwide – again according to Gennady Korban who is also the head of the Ukrop Party political council.  (As you would expect as a former Deputy Governor to Governor Kolomoisky when he headed Dnepropetrovsk.)

Gennady Korban

Gennady Korban

The extensive funding, weighted campaigning upon Mr Kolomoisky’s media networks, and anticipated continued wiping of feet upon existing (or future) electoral laws, is perhaps contingent upon two things.

The first, an as yet unfulfilled agreement when the current Rada coalition was formed, to change the electoral laws (again), to remove external party funding, providing funding from the public purse, enforced transparent funding of political parties, political campaigning restrictions/equality, and genuinely “open” political party lists.

Will the current coalition make this unfulfilled agreement a reality early within the next parliamentary session with sufficient time to come into force prior to the local elections in late October?

The second contingent was outlined in yesterday’s entry, “The question now facing the CEC, the President’s party, and ultimately the President, is whether to accept a clearly corrupted, grubby single seat win at the very public expense of the rule of law being seen to be applied.

Insuring the rule of law is fully applied now, and any offenders receive punishments as proscribed within the law, may yet set the tone for the local elections in a more positive light. Surely accepting a grubby little win in over a solitary seat now, will set a poor precedent for what follows in October.”

As the Criminal Code of Ukraine provides for heavy fines and the jailing of offenders involved in electoral fraud, coercion and bribery, will the nefarious, unabashed and blatant events surrounding the vote for Seat 205 be the platform upon which the police and prosecutors will eventually throw those involved in nefarious campaigning – which sadly includes several of the candidates themselves – in jail, thus making a public (and necessary) attempt at ending the orgy of electoral corruption that occurred, and forewarning those that will (undoubtedly) try the same tactics at the local elections?

Depending upon the answers to these questions and the repercussions they may have, the internal and external messaging may be particularly helpful – or not.

A new chapter appeared in the history of Ukrainian politics“?  Perhaps – but it may well prove to be the same dismal read as the previous one.  Page 1 at Seat 205 has been a very poor introduction.

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The electoral farce of seat 205 – Desnyanskiy (Chernigov)

July 27, 2015

Having entered into a voluntary state of “purdah” relating to the election that took place yesterday for seat 205, Desnyanskiy district in Chernigov, that self-imposed silence, post polls closing, can now be lifted.

So having expected a complete farce as soon as it became clear more than two months ago that this election seat was little more than a proxy fight between President Poroshenko and Ihor Kolomoisky backed candidates, has it turned out to be the expected proxy battle and associated farce?

Undoubtedly so.

To begin with there were 127 candidates registered to fight for this seat.  Seven of those were political party candidates, whilst the rest were “self nominees”, a large number of which were “technical candidates” put forward to split voters loyal to one or another of the “favourites” to win.

Indeed, on election day itself, 36 candidates canceled their participation whilst obviously still being upon the printed ballot.  That left 84 “self-nominees” and the 7 political party candidates.

Of these 7 candidates, two have been the front-runners.  In the Kolomoisky corner sits Gennady Korban and in the Poroshenko corner, Sergei Berezenko.

205From the very start of each of the campaigning in District 205, both candidates and campaigns have continually wiped their feet upon the electoral laws of Ukraine and continued to do so to the point that even a few weeks ago, so many electoral violations were so blatantly obvious as to concluded the entire process severely compromised.

As of election day however, a mere 27 electoral law transgressions had been officially recorded – despite dozens more being apparent to anybody that has been monitoring events.  To say this election has been a farce is to be too kind – it has been nothing short of a criminal farce, surpassing the usual nefariousness associated with hotly contested single majority seats in Ukrainian elections.

Bribery, coercion, fake seals, large scale candidate drop outs on polling day etc., – hardly meet any parameters that would suggest a free and fair election.  Voting day may have been free, but preceding events were certainly not fair, nor were they within the Ukrainian electoral laws – indeed many occurrences are expressly prohibited by the Ukrainian electoral laws.

Ballot

That all observers (worthy of the name) anticipated this farce as long ago as May – as any proxy battle between Ihor Kolomoisky and the President was bound to end up – should raise questions as to why such a farce was allowed to manifest, almost without limitation, by the authorities from the very outset of the election campaigning.

That (probably with the tacit approval or by discrete request) Governor Saakashvili arrived late into the campaigning to support the President’s man, Mr Berezenko, to be met in an unnecessarily ugly face to face by Ihor Kolomoisky’s MP Boris Filatov supporting Mr Korban, when the election was already a farce beyond doubt, raises questions of sound leadership, situational awareness, and domestic/international perception.  A polished turd remains a turd, no matter who polishes it.

Yet another (and completely avoidable) proxy battle between Mr Kolomoisky and the President now wages via Messrs Saakashvili and Filatov.

As of the time of writing, exit polls have the President’s man, Mr Berezenko winning with 31.4% of the vote vis a vis Mr Kolomoisky’s man Mr Korban sitting on 17.1%.  Whatever the voting results however, the 27 (and growing) officially recorded electoral violations must be investigated, and this public farce cannot be undone easily.

The question is now whether the CEC of its own volition (or via encouragement from upon high) will declare the election invalid – or not.

The President, despite clearly wanting to beat Mr Kolomoisky in this proxy battle (seemingly to the point of allowing the electoral laws to be flouted almost daily) after such a farce needs to lift himself above this squalid political display and odious disregard for electoral law – and there is seemingly only one way to do that, even if at the expense of “his candidate” and the result.

There is a requirement now for the President to rise above this mess and insist that each and every electoral law transgression is met with the full force and by the letter of the electoral law.  Those guilty have to be held accountable – including his own candidate who has hardly distinguished himself.

That almost certainly means a new election – but if the rule of law is to be respected, the President wants to restore his image after allowing this farce to occur (and his candidate to run amok), and given the gross violations of the electoral law that have occurred, then so be it.

The President needs to have one eye on the local elections taking place nationally in October, elections that have just as much chance of such electoral irregularities and criminality occurring as has just been witnessed in  Chernigov wherever a majority single mandate seat presents itself.

In fact the local elections provide a perfect opportunity for this farce to be corrected with a simultaneous re-run of this election taking place.

The question now facing the CEC, the President’s party, and ultimately the President, is whether to accept a clearly corrupted, grubby single seat win at the very public expense of the rule of law being seen to be applied.

Insuring the rule of law is fully applied now, and any offenders receive punishments as proscribed within the law, may yet set the tone for the local elections in a more positive light.  Surely accepting a grubby little win in over a solitary seat now, will set a poor precedent for what follows in October.

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The Venice Commission on Constitutional/Judicial reforms – Ukraine

July 26, 2015

Probably one of the most underrated acts of the current president, cabinet of ministers, and sitting Rada, was the accommodation of almost all Venice Commission “recommendations” with regard to the constitutional amendments that facilitate “decentralisation“.

Time will now tell whether the Constitutional Court will have issues with the proposed “decentralisation” amendments, and if they deem all satisfactory, whether the 300 (plus) votes required for a constitution changing majority can be reached within the Rada ranks when the matter is placed before them once more, as stated here previously.

However, the constructive attitude of the Ukrainian political class was not unnoticed.

“I very much welcome that the Constitutional Commission of Ukraine approved on Friday draft amendments to the Constitution regarding decentralisation. The text approved integrates most of the recommendations made by the Venice Commission and I would like to thank the President of the Constitutional Commission and Speaker of the Verkhovna Rada, Mr Volodymyr Groysman, for the excellent co-operation with the Venice Commission and congratulate him on the results of this co-operation.

Decentralisation is one of the key reforms required for the democratic development of the country in line with the aspirations of the people expressed during the revolution of dignity. The speedy adoption of the text by the Verkhovna Rada is now very important with a view to the local elections, which will take place in October, and the continuing negotiations in the framework of the Minsk process.

The Venice Commission stands ready to provide its assistance for further reforms, in particular the constitutional amendments concerning the judiciary.” – Gianni Buquicchio

Very good – or at least good, for whilst the Venice Commission may well have known the detail of proposed constitutional amendments designed to achieve “decentralisation”, the constituents of Ukraine were almost entirely in the dark, notwithstanding very broad brush-stroke remarks in the media that could have meant almost anything.

2751_venice_commisionSadly, the same blanket lack of knowledge relating to proposed constitutional amendments in the public realm exists when it comes to providing a pathway for judicial and prosecutors reforms.

However, the Venice Commission has released some preliminary opinions upon the matter, per the proposed constitutional amendments it has been sent.  Thus there is some insight into the proposed constitutional changes.

The major issues can be summarised as follows:

“The proposed amendments are a generally positive text which deserves to be supported. The amendments are well drafted.  Their adoption would be an important step forward towards the establishment of a truly independent judicial system in Ukraine.  The Venice Commission welcomes in particular:

– The removal of the power of the Verkhovna Rada to appoint the judges;
– The abolition of probationary periods for junior judges;
– The abolition of the “breach of oath” as a ground for dismissal of the judges;
– The reform of the Public Prosecutor’s Office, the guarantees for its independence (notably the removal of the power of the Verkhovna Rada to express no confidence in the Prosecutor General) and the removal of its non-prosecutorial supervisory powers.

The text, however, still presents some shortcomings, especially with respect to the powers of the main State organs in this field.  If not corrected, these shortcomings might create a new danger of politicisation of the judiciary and perpetuate the problems of the current system.  In this respect, the Venice Commission formulates the following main recommendations:
– While the ceremonial role of the President to appoint judges seems well justified, this is not the case for his power to dismiss judges, which should be removed from the text;
– In addition, not only the President, but also the Verkhovna Rada should have a role in the election/ appointment of a limited number of members of the High Judicial Council.”

Do read the entire text of the Venice Commission preliminary “opinion”.  There is some nuanced wordsmithery in connection to a number of much smaller issues – but issues nonetheless – that should also be accommodated by the Ukrainian leadership.

Hopefully the same political will found to accommodate the Venice Commission recommendations for the “decentralisation” amendments, will again be found with regard to the Venice Commission recommendations (both major and minor) to come relating to the judiciary and prosecutors.

Unfortunately, it seems unlikely that the Ukrainian leadership will enlighten the electorate with details of proposed constitutional amendments (and their ramifications), and thus only the reasonably constant monitoring of the Venice Commission website is likely to provide clues to the detailed proposals made.

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Odessa – The Singaporean Model?

July 25, 2015

Iran has been in the news a lot recently for reasons of non-proliferation (and a much less discussed lifting of conventional arms embargoes in due course).

Yesterday, the Iranian Ambassador to Ukraine, Mr Mohammad Beheshti-Monfaredom together with a fairly large delegation, met with Governor Saakashvili, long-time friend of this blog and head of the Odessa MFA Konstantin Rzhepishevski, and an equally sizable Odessa delegation.

Odessa Iran

Now, as most of the world is aware, Governor Saakashvili is an “ideas man” (amongst other things).  Occasionally it is difficult to discern whether he speaks from an agreed agenda with Kyiv (or others), whether ideas simply come to him mid-sentence and are blurted out without due consideration, or whether his preconceived ideas are “dangles” with the tacit approval of Kyiv (or others) for whichever audience he is addressing (or is listening internally or externally but not actually present in the room).

During yesterday’s meeting with the Iranian Ambassador and delegation, Mr Saakashvili dropped the “idea” of an Odessa Development Fund based upon the Singaporean model, and announced the first “Oblast Council for Economic Development”.

The plan then, to turn Odessa into some form of a “city-State”, based upon incorruptibility, high efficiency and vitality?  A model reformation for the nation?

Well why not – at least within the parameters of Ukrainian sovereign integrity and unity?

The USA has clearly labeled Odessa as the front line for the fight with corruption, which can only help (for the most part) rather than hinder the Governor’s vision.  To paraphrase W Clement Stone, there’s nothing wrong with aiming for the moon, and if you miss hitting a star – although it is a wise politician that manages the expectations of their constituents.

Ignoring the very high concentration of millionaires Singapore boasts, as well as being an established trading centre in southeastern Asia, there is a lot that Odessa can and should emulate – starting with the efficient and consistently incorruptable One-Stop-Shop planned to begin work in October.

If Odessa doesn’t have the power to repeal the now 20+ Ukrainian laws (and the list is still growing at the Oblast Administration) that simply stifle and complicate business, it can at least make the bureaucratic process as swift, cheap, and painless as possible.  Likewise the streamlining of property registration and unbiased enforcement of contracts within the Oblast would also go hand-in-hand with the idealism behind the One-Stop-Shop.  In all these things Singapore excels, though it has the ability to change the laws as a sovereign State, unlike an Oblast within Ukraine.

Infrastructure, education, efficiency in public administration and services, innovation, political stability and rule of law, are also the hallmark of Singapore.

Odessa on the other hand, currently can claim to have the education (although some centres of excellence would seem a good idea) and a certain amount of innovation (the latest i-Hub in the city courtesy of the sovereign fund of the Kingdom of Norway), but nothing approaching quality or sustainability in any of the other areas.

That said, the US is investing a huge amount of political and diplomatic energy in the Oblast directed at rule of law, customs and customs procedures, and advice upon civil service reform.

As your author told the last US diplomatic mission, (and hopefully it was their “takeaway”), to reform Odessa Oblast (and city) there needs to be three things – rule of law, structure and  sustainability.  The rest will sort itself out fairly swiftly without any heavy-handed or overly intrusive governance.

There is a long way to travel, and it will be a marathon and not a sprint, but both marathon and sprint begin with the first step – and those first steps (even if some are rather unstable) are being taken.  Hopefully it will not be a case of one step forward, two steps back, but undoubtedly there will be some meandering and mis-steps along the way.

If there is to be a rule of thumb regarding reform and anti-corruption measures for the Oblast, it should be one that makes it quicker and cheaper to do things legally, than it is to resort to corruption and cronyism to get things done.  Quite simply, undercut corruption and cronyism for speed and cost throughout all Oblast bureaucratic machinery.

There are, of course, issues with sustainability for Odessa should this Singaporean model prove to be even half-way successful, but such issues are a long way down the road.

The Iranians expressed interest in certain areas of development – specifically in infrastructure and agriculture.  (Unsurprisingly, as recently France has also stated interest in development in exactly the same areas within the Oblast, and China is many $ billions “in” already over the past 5 years, as are corporations like Cargill for $ hundreds of millions.)

Whether or not Governor Saakashvili’s “city-State” Singaporean “Odessa Development Fund” and “Oblast Development Council” concepts have been run passed Kyiv, or whether he sees such scope within the “decentralisation” of powers to the regions due before the year end and thus hasn’t mentioned the idea, is a question worthy of asking – for the Singaporean model involved a good deal of governmental intervention and planning (albeit not a rigid plan) that on occasion swung as a pendulum between “plan” and “free market”.  Indeed, during its rise to economic stardom, the best possible label to put upon the Singaporean model is probably “structural”.

Rule of law, structure and sustainability – three reoccurring themes in this blog.

Whatever the case, and it is extremely unlikely Odessa will be the next Singapore as much due to Ukrainian politics as anything else, if the only part of the model that is adopted and consolidated is incorruptible efficiency, that would qualify as a major success in and of itself.

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