Archive for July 25th, 2015


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.


FBI to train 50 police in Odessa

July 25, 2015

According to Governor Saakashvili (and not unsurprisingly if true), the Oblast and the FBI have reached agreement upon training 50 police officers.

These 50 police officers will be trained separately from the rest of the Oblast police – necessarily so, for detective training, if done properly, is a very intense and fairly long course that concentrates upon specific areas of policing rather than traffic or general policing.

It is unclear whether these 50 officers will be drawn from the existing ranks or not, although every police officer should have a full understanding of general policing prior to specialising, so from amongst the existing ranks would seem most likely.

It is also unclear as to the purpose of this 50 officer team.

If the FBI are training them, then presumably a good deal of time will be spent upon learning how to get the most from witnesses and the contents of witness statements, interview techniques (which is an art if done properly – especially with the most uncooperative of suspects), evidence chains and evidence chain integrity, crime scene management, some basic surveillance techniques, what is – and is not – agent provocateur vis a vis participating informants/undercover work, informant motivation, recruitment, handling, controlling  etc.  The usual stuff of investigative training, none of which is rocket science but none of which offers any short cuts if it is to be done properly.

So be it.  No doubt a necessary step as a stop-gap whilst all eyes and attention will remain upon the new “Police” that begin patrolling in late August and will undoubtedly be monitored for a year or so before significant funds and expertise are thrown at the specialised police units.


The purpose of these 50 officers, however, remains somewhat unclear at the time of writing.

Are they to act as a nucleus of investigative detectives for the entire Oblast that are FBI trained and free (presumably) of corruption?  If so, who decides which incidents get the FBI trained and (presumably) untainted detectives, and which continue to get the probably inadequately trained and sullied detectives?  Who decides who decides, for the police should be a-political and therefore allocate its resources as it deems appropriate.

Would they, and indeed will they, be tasked with policing the police?  An Oblast complaints and discipline team tasked with investigating complaints against other officers and/or rumours of incidents and/or corruption that would have significant disciplinary implications?

Clearly those tasked with “policing the police” internally within Odessa Oblast do a very poor job currently.

Will they perhaps be tasked with investigating the regional “big fish” with regards to their criminality and nefarious “business” activities?  Some form of “Oblast Crime Squad” with a broad mandate to tread upon certain parts of the SBU, shestoe otdelenie milicii po borbe s organizovannoy prestypnostu (aka UBOB), and other empirical toes?

Their task to deliver cases with all points to prove covered, all statutory defences negated, all evidence and evidence chains maintained complete integrity, to the point the corrupt and/or inept Odessa prosecutors have no choice but to proceed, and the corrupt Odessa judiciary can find no fault in the investigation or evidence presented?

That such a team is apparently to be formed and trained in the Oblast, hopefully would indicate that there is sufficient flexibility in the Oblast police structure to create such teams to target specific local area policing requirements.

If that be so, then hopefully there is sufficient flexibility for the Oblast to dissolve or merge other existing units.  That flexibility however, remains to be seen, for there are the inevitable turf wars over who has accepted responsibility for what sphere of policing, and also between the management of those spheres and units within – a situation not unique to Ukraine of course.

Which brings us to the next question.  Under whose direct policing roof, will the new FBI trained team sit?  Directly under the Oblast Police Chief, or under the existing heads of the criminal, organised crime, or whatever existing policing branch within the Oblast, who after all answer to the Oblast Police Chief anyway?

Questions of Oblast policing structure and policing plans and unit purposes once again arise.

It is perhaps time for Giya Lordkipanidze to present an Oblast policing plan and outline the policing structure that is to be.

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