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A strange week – a bit of policy and early elections

November 7, 2015

It has been a strange week for the author of this blog.  So unusually there will be a small mention of those personal events which will then lead to a bit of policy – as both are actually connected, albeit tenuously.

Firstly, “those people” behind two MPs (national not local administration) have sought council (such as it is) with your author over policy in preparation for early Verkhovna Rada elections which are heavily rumoured for the Spring 2016 (and thus before 1st July when the far more transparency promoting “On amendments to some legislative acts of Ukraine concerning prevention and counteraction to political corruption” take effect – one last national hurrah for the usual corrupt political practices perhaps, and hence the otherwise inexplicable delay in these amendments taking effect).  Yet it is far from a certainty that early Verkhovna Rada elections there will be.

Nevertheless, that both are lining up their political ducks for a slow burning campaign to begin immediately after the New Year would suggest they feel it likely enough to attempt to steal the march on others.

PigTo be entirely blunt, with regard to one of the MPs, although “his people” are all OK people, it would be like putting policy lipstick on a political personality pig.  Perhaps less so for the other individual, despite on occasion displaying some very boar-like tendencies.

The thing about policy is that there are really only three types – Effective, ineffective and counterproductive (regardless of the policy content).

Of course, policy has to be sold to the voting constituents as a policy belonging to “MP X” or “Party Y” if it is to become part of the foundation to any slow-burning and unofficial political campaigning before the official electoral starters gun is fired (and therefore has to be seen to be “standard politicking” thus remaining within the electoral rules – until, per tradition, everybody breaks them en masse and fragrantly once official campaigning starts).

In short, to lay claim to a policy and frame it under whatever personal branding now(ish) provides for the first framing of policy.  And he/she that frames first and frames well, normally wins the policy argument.

So what should an MP wanting local constituency support, but a parliamentary seat nationally (and therefore seen as too distant to change things locally) look for in a policy?  Perhaps one that if ineffectively implemented nationally, could still be effectively implemented locally – particularly so as “decentralisation” could provide for local successes in policy, despite general national failures.

There are perhaps many policy areas to choose from that could fit – and whilst they can be clearly ambitious, they should also be measurable and consideration given to time both in implementation, delivery, and when anticipated results are tangibly expected – how else to conduct a policy review otherwise?

If the politicians in question are already somewhat “tarnished”, or “underachieving” or otherwise “lacking credibility” after years of abusing both political system and the voting constituency (notwithstanding ignoring the rule of law when expedient), then a policy that covers the widest demographic helps improve electoral chances (depending upon their perceived level of democratic and political debauchery – some MPs are hopefully beyond helping when laid before the alter of public opinion).

Nevertheless, policy is policy regardless of the political mouthpiece.  Message and not messenger.  In a nation devoid of ideology within political parties there is perhaps no need for concern over ideological framing – especially so if the orator/promoter of policy has been in several political parties during a political career – as many have in Ukraine.

In such a mercantile city and oblast as Odessa, the regional economy would seem a reasonable policy topic that could either enhance national policy or be somewhat resilient to it.

Yet economics is not an exact science and also economics is a word that makes many people stop listening.  Therefore any such policy would have to be framed around the improvement in the quality of life.  Everybody wants an improvement in their quality of life.

How will the policy change lives?  There is a need to create jobs, generate business competitiveness, and advance sustainable development.  How will the policy overcome development obstacles in certain parts of Odessa Oblast, that are not faced by the others?

Should one of the aims to be increase Oblast cohesion, or leave every Mayor and regional Chairperson to do their own thing under “decentralisation”?  Any such policy should be about growth across all districts to improve opportunity and quality of life – not just about regional fiscal redistribution.

How to make the most of every Kopeek when every Kopeek is not only scarce but prone to be spent unwisely (if not stolen)?  How to formulate a policy that will encourage additional private domestic, and external investment?  Tangible results are expected from such a policy after all.

How effective (regardless of how prickly) will the interaction and common purpose be between MPs, Governer, Oblast Chairperson and City Mayors?

How to finance new initiatives?  When selling any such policy is it wise to talk in numbers?  If so which numbers?  Is it easier to sell reducing budget headers by 1.2% of the regional budget for X, 1.5% for Y and 1.3% from budget Z in order to create a “Seed Fund” for SMEs of 5% of the regional budget or as a UAH/$ figure?  Should any such Oblast fund then be allocated in the form of grants, or perhaps as low-cost loans given the inaccessibility of affordable banking?  Can it be leveraged with the EBRD, or WB etc?  Who should administer it?  What of transparency and the need for independence when issuing such loans or grants to SMEs?  What becomes of the grant and loan money for SMEs now?  Where does it go?  Dose anybody know?

Is it possible to incentivise a small community that gives a collective yawn when energy efficiency is mentioned, by stating if in 3 months “x amount” of energy be saved, equaling UAH/$ Y, such energy savings will deliver the much sought school crossing point?  In doing so how does that fit with any national energy efficiency policy?

How to increasingly simplify local processes and yet increase public accountability and public auditing?

What about the administrative capacity and quality?  In achieving results and value for money, good project management, financial management and public administration training are essential lest they become a policy bottleneck (or node for corruption).

(This same week your author was asked to consider joining “the Board” of a NGO – a NGO that deals with all within the paragraph immediately above.)

Having stated all the above to “the people” around these MPs, and asked the same questions as those above, it will be interesting to see whether council is sought over the possible answers (for these are not new issues and have therefore been addressed by others before) and a slow-burning “policy campaign” (and a “policy campaign” would be a first for politics in Odessa) will be unofficially launched immediately after the New Year – or not.

Cynically, one has to suspect that the delay until 1st July 2016 regarding the activation of the “On amendments to some legislative acts of Ukraine concerning prevention and counteraction to political corruption” is a very deliberate move to facilitate the same old dirty political machinery in any early Verkhovna Rada elections.  It may yet be that these 2 MPs will simply default to tried and tested odious and nefarious methods rather than try something new – like policy in their campaigning.  It is though perhaps a sign of political progress that policy is even being considered for an electoral campaign!

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