18.12.2009

Decentralization will increase the competitiveness of regions

 

Local self-government reform: to be or not to be? - Organizers have selected this question for the discussion on the public debate carried out in Kyiv on December 17.

 

Organizers: Foundation for Effective Governance and Company Intelligence Squared (London, UK).

Speakers:

 

PRO: Irina Khakamada, Candidate of Economic Sciences, Associate Professor (Russia); Volodymyr Groisman, Mayor of Vinnytsia.

CONS: Pierre Defraigne, Executive Director, Madariaga - College of Europe Foundation, the economist and employee of the higher government agencies of Europe from 1970 to 2005 (France); Volodymyr Yatsuba, Member of Parliament of Ukraine, ex-Minister of Regional Development and Construction of Ukraine.

 

Among participants of the event were mayors of Ukrainian cities, representatives of the Ministry of Regional Development and Construction of Ukraine, the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA), national and foreign experts in decentralization issues, as well as Oksana Garnets, Senior Project Coordinator of the Swiss-Ukrainian Decentralization Support to Ukraine Project DESPRO.

 

In the opinion of pro-decentralization debate participants, the problem today is that the central authorities are afraid to lose their leverage.

 

“There is simply no other way. If we want to ensure normal life quality standards, the problems should be solved not in the high offices, but where people live. And chances to change the situation are real - the leaders of local governments are increasingly aware that they do not have the right not only to ask but also to insist on accounting for their opinion”- Vinnytsa Mayor Volodymyr Groisman emphasized during the debate.

 

In her turn, Irina Khakamada stressed that decentralization is inevitable. “Age of stability of the global economy has ended. We expect a turbulent wave associated with the emergence of the new economic players ahead. Only responsibility wins under such circumstances, i.e. the responsibility of all economic actors: national economic systems, corporations, entrepreneurs. Responsibility is decentralization,” she had explained.

 

Other speakers at the debate were for partial decentralization. Thus, MP from the Party of Regions, ex-Minister of Regional Development and Construction Volodymyr Yatsuba expressed an opinion that it is feasible to regard decentralization in the part of shaping local budgets taking into account possibilities of each region and their subsequent transition to financial self-sufficiency.

 

He also underlined that under conditions of crisis and political instability in Ukraine management functions at central and regional levels need to be consolidated, clear system of subordination has to be created, as well as agreed procedure for decision making has to be elaborated.

 

The Executive Director of the Madariaga - College of Europe Foundation Pierre Defraigne discussed the risks associated with decentralization of competencies, financial resources and responsibility. In his view, decentralization will become a barrier to regional development and in the future will threaten the unity of Ukraine.

“First of all the problems that have become a disease of Ukrainian society need to be rectified: political instability, corruption, nepotism, infrastructure deficit. And only then you can switch to the issue of decentralization.” according to the opinion of the French expert.

 

Debates were carried out in the style of Oxford Club. Participants had the opportunity to put questions of their interest to the speakers. An interactive voting was held during the event. “For” the statement “Decentralization will increase the competitiveness of regions” voted 70% of the audience, 22% voted “against” and 8% were undecided.