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Time for a reshuffle – Cabinet of Ministers

January 18, 2016

Following nicely on from yesterday’s entry relating to the first major change in the local political scene of Odessa with the appointment of Maria Gaidar as Deputy Governor, it is perhaps timely to cast an eye toward the long anticipated reshuffle within the national politics, and specifically the Cabinet of Ministers.

Fair warning, this entry is not about to list the runners and riders for soon to be rotated ministerial posts.

The Speaker of the Verkhovna Rada, Volodymyr Groisman (whose role is in no danger whatsoever during any Cabinet reshuffle) has stated “There are, in my opinion, a number of ministers, over which are huge issues in terms of their professionalism and efficiency.”

Well quite – there are a number of ministers that have officially resigned, some many months ago, yet are kept in office due to the Verkhovna Rada systematically failing to vote to accept any tendered resignation when offered.  Thus having resigned but yet not been released from their roles, it is somewhat understandable that efficiency (if not whatever professionalism they may actually have) will be effected. It is probably quite difficult to be fully motivated having resigned, but not to have that resignation accepted.

reshuffle

The question is if those that leave the Cabinet of Ministers – be it they resigned or are subsequently removed/sacked/rotated out – will be replaced by somebody better?  Better does not equate to eager, which undoubtedly all newly appointed ministers will (or hopefully will) be.  Those ministers currently in post, for however much longer, were originally the first choice of their parties for those roles.

It is necessary to be blunt.  The coalition party quota system for ministerial posts exists as a power sharing glue to hold the coalition together – it does not exist to draw the best and most suitable candidate from across the coalition parliamentarians to any particular ministerial post irrespective of their party.

Ministerial posts, like the ministries themselves, have a power perception index within government.

Thus, for example, Batkivshchyna may have three outstanding candidates for the Ministry of Kite Flying, but hold the portfolio of the Ministry of Picnics.  Solidarity that holds the Ministry of Kite Flying portfolio has nobody that has any experience of, nor even any interest in Kite Flying, but has some brilliant sandwich makers.

The problem being no portfolio swap is likely to occur for several reasons.

Firstly, the Ministry of Kite Flying is deemed more important/high profile/more powerful than that of the Ministry of Picnics in the domestic political perception index, so the ministry is to be politically coveted even if the party cannot provide the best minister for it within the coalition parliamentarians.

Secondly, the People’s Front with the Ministry of Crochet portfolio and Samapomich Party with the Ministry of Banana Bending, both see the transfer of ministries to facilitate the best qualified ministers, and the perceived power shift in the portfolio index that it entails, as effecting the perception of their coalition ministerial portfolios too.

Therefore, whilst the appointing of an experienced Banana bender as Minister to the Ministry of Banana bending would seem entirely sensible, the politics of the coalition may prevent it simply because the best candidate is in the wrong party/the wrong party holds that portfolio.

The result is crochet bananas, flying picnics, and bent kites – which is something that Mr Groisman fails to mention when omitting to highlight the problems party quotas play.

That said, there is not requirement whatsoever for a Minister to have experience in the realm of the Ministry they run.  A minister for infrastructure does not have to be a civil engineer any more than a defence minister a former solider or interior minister former police officer – but it does help if a minister actually has a genuine interest in the area of public policy their ministry controls.

In short, a highly qualified technocratic reform orientated government is simply not coming.

There are also other issues that effect the “efficiency” of some ministers of which Mr Groisman doesn’t cite.

However, the first issue is against what benchmark they are measured with regard to efficiency?  Is that benchmark one of reform?

If so, has that reform failed to materialise because the Minister is unprofessional and inefficient, in which case they should have been replaced long ago when deemed to be failing, or is that lack of reform within any particular ministry due to the fact the Verkhovna Rada will not vote through legislative changes that would allow any specific ministry to reform as is required of it?

By way of example, The Education Ministry, and Minister Kvit, are widely touted as being one of the most successful reforming ministries and ministers, being more than 50% through its reform programme.  Very good, but the Ministry of Education was one of the very few ministries that had a reform programme generally supported by education professionals, academics and intellectuals before President Yanukovych and his Education Minister Tabachnyk fled Ukraine almost 2 years ago.  Indeed the reform programme was created by the “enlightened” precisely to try and shape and integrate Ukrainian education westward, whilst repelling the grotesquely warped system Mr Tabachnyk was trying to force upon Ukraine.

In short, the Education Ministry had something of a head start on most other ministries and has a Minister that knows his domain inside out – yet it is nowhere near getting the legislative foundations it needs to complete its reform programme through the Verkhovna Rada.  Who is the force that prevents reform progress?

It took Economy Minister Aivaras Abromavicius more than ten attempts (yes 10) to get a privatisaion law through the Verkhovna Rada in an effort to get loss making State Owned Enterprises up for sale and off the State balance sheet.

Indeed, if Aivaras Abromavicius is “rotated” during the Cabinet reshuffle and moved elsewhere in government – he is too good to be discarded – then it will be for purely nefarious reasons.  The problem in “moving him out of the way” for “somebody’s man” to replace him prior to privatisations, is that it would have to be to a role with real meaning.  Making him a Deputy Prime Minister responsible for crochet, banana bending, picnics and kit flying would be far too transparent – and he’d refuse the role.  Perhaps Vice Prime Minister for European Integration would be deemed a solid option?

Nevertheless, Ministers Abromavicius and Kvit are both very capable ministers that have overseen successful and on-going reforms within their ministries – and both have been held back through the Verkhovna Rada legislature slowing and restricting their respective progress.  They are but two examples.

There are then current ministers that one or more party’s in the coalition simply want to remove as they have not been “accommodating” – the Minister for Energy for example, who thus far has seen his position defended by his own party successfully, but decried by other coalition parties.

There is no need to go on and labour the points – suffice to say that some ministers that will leave the cabinet have indeed have failed to make the grade as far as professionalism and efficiency is concerned, simply through lack of personal application or ability, as Mr Groisman infers.  Others however, may lose their posts for being less than “accommodating” to the “influences” that swirl around them, or due to a legislative constipation within the Verkhovna Rada that simply failed to pass reforms to enable progress.

The question is who falls into which category, as assuredly however Mr Groisman may wish to frame the outcomes of the forthcoming reshuffle, not all will leave due to being unprofessional and ineffective.

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