Political control v political effectiveness – Ukraine

October 12, 2015

Ukraine has come a long way since February 2014, the bloody events leading to ouster of the Yanukovych regime, the crossing of several societal Rubicon’s, and the discovery of just how degraded and hollow the institutions of State actually were/are – to the point of volunteer battalions becoming the nation’s teeth in eastern Ukraine and civil society becoming its fund raising, logistical support and promotional tail for the first few months after The Kremlin decided to open its Donbas front, whilst Kyiv stumbled and fumbled in a stupefied condition.

Indeed for at least the first half of 2014, perhaps longer, so entirely useless was the State structure that it was simply avoided and circumvented by a mobilised society in order to provide any effective resistance and support in the east, and community action across the rest of the nation to prevent implosion.

During those early months, it took a good deal of external energy, cash and expertise to support and organise any form of coherent and even marginally effective structures of State within Ukraine – a task that is still far from complete despite the evident recovery of “The State” from a condition of almost fatal chaos, to that of simply feckless and weak.  Nevertheless a recovery of sorts despite “The State” remaining light years behind society and civil society in its effectiveness and implementation of solutions to identified problems.  (Notwithstanding solutions that are forced upon “The State” by external institutions like the IMF etc.)

In short, there has been a move from an almost complete absence of quality administrative decisions made without expert analysis and input, to the point now where there is an abundance of both quality domestic and external expert analysis available to government even before it thinks to ask for it – and the government is at pains to be seen to be listening to that advice.

The question is whether when it is listening, is it actually hearing the experts available to it?

If it is actually hearing what it is being told, why for so many within the Ukrainian constituency, does it appear that the institutions of power and the State aparatus are still projecting a clear predilection for controllability at the expense of effectiveness?

The institutions of State remain weak and feckless – notwithstanding still being chronically and systemically corrupt.  The threats, both internal and external faced by Ukraine, have in no way diminished.  For so long as the State and its institutions remain in their current weak and/or inept condition, the quality of administrative decision making, effectiveness, and implementation can afford few errors.

No longer being in Spring of 2014 where civil society and society worked around the political class to get results, we are soon entering Spring 2016 with a civil society now trying very hard to drag the political class behind it toward reform and State development.  The feckless political class is a heavy load to carry, particularly when it still appears to be deaf to the experts it claims to listen to far too often.

If the truce holds in eastern Ukraine, the political class are very likely to face multiple issues rising swiftly up the societal expectations spectrum that it still seems unprepared for – and having failed to reform (nor lustrate) its institutions in any meaningful way, both the power and its institutions when forced to make swift decisions are unlikely to be prepared.

That will lead to continuously untimely, and perhaps worse, numerous wrong decisions being made both centrally and at the periphery.  This is particularly so when effectiveness based upon expert input remains a permanent sacrifice upon the alter of central political controllability.


Nobody would deny that nation building takes a long time.  Indeed it is a matter of more haste and less speed to get it more or less right and sustainable.  However, “revolutionary reform” would appear more successful than “evolutionary reform” when viewed empirically – yet Ukraine under its current management appears to have opted for the later which would suggest either failure, or a change to revolutionary reform – perhaps under new management.  If that be the case, then the current management will have only itself to blame.

If the fundamentals of quality decision making can be broadly brush stroked as being timely, considered, data based, reasoned with clearly identified trade offs, and actioned, then one wonders where the Ukrainian political class sit upon either the domestic or international scorecard of 1 – 10 if allocating 2 points to each broadly identified criteria as listed above in any quality decision making?

Perhaps every governmental decision should be marked against these 5 criteria henceforth to provide a more focused perception vis a vis government rhetoric.  It would make a change from the usual “Buzz Word Bongo”.

(Before the practitioners start emailing Otto von Bismarck — ‘Politics is the art of the possible, the attainable — the art of the next best’ to the blog, as part of the previous regime discovered rather bluntly, there are some very different views between society and the political class as to what is “possible” and “attainable” (and how quickly it can and should be achieved).)

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