Vira Nanivska: the Problem of Ukrainian Reform is Intellectual in Nature

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Vira Nanivska, Chair of the Board at «Collegium of Anna Yaroslavna», civil activist, scholar, expert in public administration and reform of political institutions, lecturer at the course «Full Cycle of Public Policy» in the School of Public Management

By Maria Honska

The problem of Ukrainian reforms is intellectual in nature

Our politics and draft laws lack policy analysis in terms of such three aspects as vision, obstacles, and solutions. They also lack analysis of stakeholders’ positionality. Is it possible to have? Yes, it is. But lack of knowledge comes in the way. We talk a lot about reforms. There is an illusion that obstacles in reform are there due to the mentality and lack of political will. There is always someone to create this sort of resistance or come in the way of reform implementation. However, usually, if you get deeper you can see there is merely no clear picture about what requires change and how it should be done. The approach when everything seems to be quite understandable is largely illusionary. They say there is nothing to think about as all is clear anyway, and you just need to do something to have everything fine. But the machinery of government is huge. It is not possible to make it good by waving a magic wand. On the other hand, it is difficult to find such points of power that accumulate the effect on all other processes and results. In many areas, we are unaware of them. For instance, in the field of housing and utilities sector, or of Soviet legacy housing. We do not even attempt to discuss them while it is a large-scale future disaster we are not taking into consideration.

Soviet legacy housing  is a huge future disaster no one is taking seriously

Ukraine is part of a group of countries that have gone through privatization of housing, where poor people own housing facilities. What does it imply? Poor people own houses and are not able to provide for infrastructure maintenance of the housing, or of the quarters around the houses. We have not even started yet to tackle the problem. In the Baltic states, in Poland, or Germany, they are already actively dealing with this issue. They are trying
to change the situation, while we have not approached the point yet. All we know is that situation is getting worse every day, the pipelines are deteriorating daily, and we believe those to be issues of transparency. However, it’s all much more grave than transparency. That is why we are not even tackling the notion of soviet legacy housing. I was pleasantly surprised that there is a student who got interested in this topic and is going to work on it. In fact, the goal of the course is to develop a full cycle of public policy and policy agenda. I think the results will be very good.

On miracle governance in terms of sweeping reform

Lustration is needed. In the first place, it shall be lustration of legislation. 90% of it is spam; it must be thrown away. We have no single chance to improve or correct our system of public administration because it is Soviet and it is destroyed. As to the Soviet system, even if it were in perfect condition, it would be fitting even worse because we are already a democratic state. We have democratic elections. We have political rivalry. We have private ownership. Therefore, this Soviet administrative machinery does not strongly fit us. Moreover, it is entirely dysfunctional. It is rotten, destroyed, and corrupt. There is no chance we could improve it somehow. In other words, we do not have any legacy of old democratic institutions. That is why we have a chance and the need to make new democratic institutions that would largely excel what is currently being done and planned in the West because they also face a crisis. Even though this crisis is beyond our reach, it is still a crisis of democratic institutions. I believe we are going to have the same as Japan used to have with technologies. Japanese technological revolution was closely connected with the factor of late development. It means when we are so far behind that we find ourselves in the forefront. Miracle governance in terms of sweeping reform shall be managed by a new generation of public officials. You shall be doing it!

An entirely new generation of people who accept the term ‘intellectual challenges’

When teaching a course on ‘Full Cycle of Public Policy’ I was impressed by the fact how the Master students in public administration at the School of Public Management are prepared for some very serious change, and for work, as people who realize very well what they want. They understand what kind of reform they want to implement and why they are willing to do this. It is the first time I see the group, the entire group, equally on the same high level of social agency. At some point, I even thought they have been prepared specifically or selected as social leaders. As Pavlo Sheremeta put it, essentially it was this way indeed. I have very positive impressions about the work with the students. They are very thoughtful and intelligent. I found it very interesting to work with them. It is a new generation of people who accept the notion of ‘intellectual challenges!’IMG_2023med