Author: Maksym Bryzitskyi, expert on legal issues
Decentralisation as a global trend of recent decades is possibly associated with the end of the Cold War and tiredness from central management on both sides of the Cold Curtain, which is especially noticeable in the countries of Eastern and Central Europe, where relevant reforms were a reaction to the failure of the policy led by the communist regime. The accumulated since that time empirical material and conducted researches give an opportunity to governments of other countries to evaluate the benefits of decentralisation and, what is more important, to minimize its risks.
The window of opportunities for the reform of powers decentralisation in Ukraine opened in 2014, when, according to the classical theory made by Kingdon, three conditions coincided together, such as a presence of a problem, offers for its resolving, and political will. Thus, the problem of the administrative system and local self-government always remained at the top due to efforts made by expert environment and interested parties, and because of the obvious inefficiency of domestic models in comparison with western neighbours. Detailed proposals on reforming have also been developed since the early 2000s and they have constantly been complemented by new ones. The factor that contributed to the consolidation of political will and that was not present in previous attempts to make reforms (1997, 2005, 2008-2009) became a necessity to suggest an alternative to the idea of federalisation of Ukraine promoted by pro-Russian forces.
Within five years, there have been significant changes in the territorial, administrative and financial structures, and the reform has repeatedly been called one of the most successful in the country. The hromadas, which used the procedure of voluntary amalgamation, have received considerable powers and resources, and most of them demonstrated high achievements in the arrangement of transport and social infrastructure, the provision of administrative services, optimization costs. The results are also confirmed by public opinion: the public opinion researches for three years in a row have recorded about 40% of the respondents, who have seen improvements in their settlements, against 5% who say that the situation has become worse.
However, the real big changes are still ahead. The first risk, which is usually indicated by opponents of decentralisation, is weakening the state’s ability to redistribute income and wealth, that is to reduce economic inequality.
Another risk is reducing the management effectiveness in comparison with centralised government vertical.
The next risk is the decline in macroeconomic stability.
And the last risk, which may be associated with decentralisation, is corruption.
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