At the end of 2019, five years after the start of the decentralisation reform, there are more than a thousand amalgamated hromadas in Ukraine.
Participants of the discussion at the Ukrainian Crisis Media Centre, organised by the USAID DOBRE Programme, talked on how to determine whether a hromada is capable, how to increase this capacity and what examples of international and Ukrainian experience may be useful.
"Hromadas can now amalgamate as they wish. But, according to various estimates, about a third of hromadas lacke the characteristics to provide a full range of service for a quality life in their territory. At times, hromadas did not consider that after amalgamation services for residents should be of no worse quality than before,” explains Mykola Rubchak, Head of the Expert Group of the Territorial Organisation of Power at the Directorate for Local Self-Government Development, Territorial Organisation of Power and Administrative-Territorial Structure of the Ministry of Development of Communities and Territories of Ukraine.
How to identify which hromadas are capable?
The Ministry of Development of Communities and Territories recommends the following criteria to be used to determine hromadas’ capacity:
Additional or assessment criteria proposed to be considered include: the number of permanent hromada residents, its area, taxability index of the hromada budget, its share of local taxes and fees.
A separate issue is accessibility: the distance to the administrative centre should be no more than 25 kilometers, firefighters and the ambulance should arrive to the site within no more than 20 minutes.
Barry Reed, USAID DOBRE Programme Вirector, emphasises that the population and the number of pupils in the hromada are not determinants – it is more important to look at what resources the AH has.
Barry Reed noted that there are currently no clear indicators of hromada success from which to draw conclusions on their capacity.
“In order to determine the criteria for hromadas’ capacity, it is important to identify what the main purpose of the decentralisation reform in Ukraine is: to achieve economic growth, strengthen democracy, or the quality of service at the local level,” said Caesari Trutkowski, chairman of the board of the Foundation of Local Democracy Development (Poland).
What to do with hromadas that have not yet amalgamated?
The participants of the discussion stressed that the reform should be completed before the local elections, if necessary – by forced amalgamation.
"The more we delay, the worse is the situation for hromadas already amalgamated. Those non-amalgamated have less workload and responsibility, and a salary of government officials is higher than we have. The more powers are delegated to us [amalgamated hromadas], often with insufficient financial resources – the more problems we have,” Ivan Rubskyi said.
“We used to be an agricultural hub, but now we are trying to change that narrative and reaffirm the idea of the city as a rapidly growing technological hub. Education centres are very important for sustainable development. The University is one of the factors that help us to provide rapid growth, high salaries and development of such industries as optics, high-tech manufacturing, biotechnology, software production, etc., quality healthcare,” Brit Fontainot, Economic Development Director of Bozeman City (Montana, USA).
Proper planning is very important for development.
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