Ukraine must defeat corruption in the next five years, Ruslan Riaboshapka, a deputy head of President Volodymyr Zelensky's office, said at a conference titled New Anticorruption Strategy for Ukraine: What should it be? that has taken place in Kiev lately.
"We don’t have much time. As our president said, he came for one term, for five years, and we must defeat corruption over this period of time," the president's representative noted. He believes that Ukraine's anticorruption strategy should center on the most problematic areas, that is corruption at state enterprises, monopolies, state-run banks, as well as in the energy, resource, defense and security spheres.
President Volodymyr Zelensky submitted to the Verkhovna Rada a bill on the civil seizure of corruptive assets of officials back on June 3. The bill envisages reinstating criminal liability for illegal richness.
It is proposed to cancel immunities, establish a Supreme Economic Court, and deprive security services of irrelevant functions, such as opening criminal cases and probing economic and financial crimes, in order to fight corruption. Economic activity is also expected to be decriminalized, officials who put artificial barriers to businessmen are expected to be punished, while businessmen are expected to get electronic services.
Member of the Anticorruption Policy Council Anastasiya Krasnoselska enlisted the primary anticorruption initiatives of the Servant of the People party.
The first step of the Zelensky's team will be to introduce the institute of civil seizure of illegal assets of officials, she said. Other primary tasks include the focus of an anticorruption court on corruption cases, the reset at the National Agency for Corruption Prevention, and the reinstatement of criminal liability for illegal richness.
One of course would like to believe in Zelensky's intentions. However, it is unclear if there is a concrete action plan to this end and how applicable it is. One shouldn't forget that corruption has remained one of Ukraine's top problems for almost 30 years. The USA openly said that after Petro Poroshenko, who also intended to combat corruption, had come to power corruption only grew. In 2018, Ukraine was 120th out of 180 countries in the Corruption Perception Index compiled by Transparency International. It should be noted that the situation tends to aggravate. This April the Ernst&Young international auditing company placed Ukraine the first in terms of corruption.
IMF Resident Representative in Ukraine Goesta Ljungman said last November that the high corruption level costs Ukraine 2% of GDP annually. Head of the EU Advisory Mission Kestutis Lancinskas cited more precise figures, saying that Kiev was losing about $2 billion annually because of corruption.
Is it possible to believe in successful fight of Zelensky against corruption? It is likely that such statements of the president are populist. Just look at the president's statement about the de-oligarchization of media keeping in mind that he himself has links to Ihor Kolomoiski, one the country's richest men. The oligarch owns the 1+1 Media holding that comprises the Unian news agency and the 1+1 TV channel. And how will Zelensky counter his own "godfather"?
"Many media outlets are related to certain oligarch or financial groups in Ukraine. It is impossible to make media independent, they will always be obedient to someone. Possibly, Zelensky is trying to make media outlets that are potentially dangerous to him show loyalty or change the owners," member of the Russian Presidential Council for Interethnic Relations Bogdan Bezpalko said.
Even if the new presidents starts a real fight against corruption, as the West wants it, this will make all oligarchs oppose him and they actually own Ukraine, its land, natural resources, largest companies, banks, media and so on. This may result in another Maidan revolution, as no one would voluntary give up multimillion revenues.
"Regretfully, it is hard to imagine that the new authorities can cope with such an important problem for Ukraine as all-out corruption. This all is a big problem for the country's development. New people come to power, but they are mainly not rich and strive for richness. One should remember that corruption is a symptom rather than an illness. The illness is in the whole structure of Ukraine's socio-economic system.
This is a system of clans and oligarchs, and it envisages a strong corruptive element. The rise of the new team to power just proves this element of the system. Zelensky will not be able to defeat the oligarchic system and he doesn't even promise that. A new redistribution of property is possible which will instigate corruption even more. The president of course cannot change anything on the systemic level," expert at the Russian Institute of Strategic Studies Oleg Nemensky said.
Of course, Zelensky understands that. It is possible that the fight against corruption was mentioned just to remain popular before the parliamentary elections. However, one shouldn’t forget that a politician can be judged only by real actions, and there have been none so far. Regretfully, yet another imitation of fight against corruption accompanied by empty statements as it was under Poroshenko is quite possible.