The wind of change is about to blow in Ukraine. Someone is happy, someone is encouraged, and someone is scared. There’s no guarantee that the wind will be fresh and blow through the stagnant Augean stables, or that it will bring even more toxic spirits of corruption, nepotism and disorder to them. In any case, our life will not be the same as yesterday. The changes also concern the structure, aimed at strengthening the state and ensuring decent living standards for everyone ‒ the Cabinet of Ministers.
To reduce by half
Experts claim that the vertical of the Ukrainian government is still based on the Soviet approach. However, the Cabinet of Ministers is not firmly concreted structure, since over the years of independence new ministries appeared and old ministries were dismissed, united, the names were changed. After the start of the Russian-Ukrainian war, the following policies were created: information policy, temporarily occupied territories policy, and on veterans’ affairs policy.
As for the Ministry of Information Policy, the President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky supports the idea of uniting it with two others: culture, youth and sports. He promised that the structure will appear soon, with a new government. Considering that all the cards are in the hands of the Servant of the People party, which will have 254 seats in the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine and will be able without any political forces to independently form the Cabinet of Ministers, fundamental changes in the structure of the executive branch are quite real.
The Cabinet of Ministers today: the Prime Minister, 6 Vice Prime Ministers (two at the head of the ministries), 17 special ministers and 1 minister of the Cabinet of Ministers. The total number of ministries ‒ 19, the number of the Cabinet of Ministers members ‒ 25.
“We need changes in the ministries because the state machine and the logic of decision-making in each of the executive authorities remain Soviet,” Oleh Ustenko, an adviser to president Zelensky and economist, said. “They talked a lot about changes and did nothing. Within independence time, the discussion on changes in government was launched, but the problems were not solved. Ukraine is a country of latent interests. Each group had such, and they did not give the opportunity to properly develop the public administration sector.”
The chairman of the current Cabinet of Ministers, Volodymyr Groysman, who is heading the government for the fourth year, also supports the idea of reducing the number of ministries. In July, he repeatedly raised this topic, even before the president’s statement. According to Mr Groysman, it is enough 11-12 ministries. The number of vice prime ministers should be also reduced. That approximately halves the number of members of the Cabinet. According to the Prime Minister, this will improve governance and save state funds. The head of the government plans to propose his ideas for the next cadence. Volodymyr Groysman himself says goodbye to the governmental seat. He lost the elections, and, most importantly, he is from the ‘exes’ and cannot count on a key place in the new team, despite being loyal to it. In the President’s Office, they consider applicants for the post of Prime Minister and ministers, however, no official names are given yet.
Is there a strategy and vision?
Society responds positively to reduction. Of course, when it doesn’t come to wages, pensions, or social benefits cutbacks but about optimizing the state apparatus or minimizing the number of people’s deputies. The issue of impeachment and the abolition of parliamentary immunity also find positive feedback. However, very often the intention to reduce someone or something is the purest populism.
“The smaller the ministries, the smaller the role of the state in managing the economy,” political analyst Serhii Taran explained. “This is a positive step, but it will be possible to talk about the president’s specific proposals when we see the strategy of Zelensky, his team or one-party coalition in the field of economics and reforms. The structure is secondary, primary meanings ‒ which country we are building, which is the civilization choice and which is the course. First, we should get answers to these questions, then how to do it, and only then proceed to the reforms of the power structure. Talk about reducing the number of ministries is very popular, as well as about reducing the number of people’s deputies. But the number of deputies must meet the needs of society at a certain time. The same with the ministries. To get these needs, we need to have a development strategy for Ukraine.”
“I am a supporter of a functional approach to the formation of the Cabinet of Ministers, so that redundant, from the point of view of building internal policy, ministries are transferred to the rank of committees, subordinate to ministries,” Vasyl Kuibida, former Minister of Regional Development and Construction of Ukraine, former Mayor of Lviv, said. “But first you need to answer the question: what are you going to do? Since the Cabinet is a control system, a tool that you need to pick up. You cannot do subtle surgery on the eye with a nail file and a knife, you need a scalpel. It is necessary to understand, what Ukraine you want to see in 5-10 years. First, you set a task, and then you select effective tools for it. The strategy is how you will act, achieving the declared goal. And, accordingly, you develop tactics that have to fit into the overall strategy. But until you understand the goals and objectives, you cannot pick up a tool.”
In Ukraine, it is not the mechanical integration of two or three ministries into one, but a global change in the entire structure of the executive branch.
Oleh Ustenko emphasized a large-scale public administration reform, “The first is to investigate all the institutions in Ukraine, to define their functions. Second, to decide whether to hold a certain function in the hands of the state. If not, then it should be left to the non-state sector or private business. There is no sense for taxpayers to pay for it. When we find out what functions are transferred to the executive branch, we can determine the value of each. They must understand that it is impossible to distribute one function between different institutions of the executive power, as, for example, several institutions at once are responsible for the energy sector. As there can be no obvious intersection of functions, which president Zelensky emphasized.”
Say a word for the vice prime ministers
Most critical arrows are targetted at the vice prime ministers. This is the question of not only their effectiveness but also expediency. Vice Prime Minister for European and Euro-Atlantic Integration of Ukraine Ivanna Klympush-Tsyntsadze agrees that her colleagues without ministries are somewhat limited in their rights as members of the government.
“It seems that only I among the vice prime ministers have been indicated what I actually do in the position,” Klympush-Tsyntsadze said. “Therefore, probably, such a number of the vice prime ministers is not necessary. My position can be strengthened ‒ so that a person on the position has a central executive authority or a ministry behind. But it is important to be equidistant from the interests of any sector. This person must take into account the interests of all, seek a compromise. What kind of ministry could it be? Justice, economic development and trade? I do not know. But my position concerns European and Euro-Atlantic integration. We first combined these tracks ‒ they are not parallel but complement each other, otherwise, they will not achieve the result. Can the Minister of Defense be a vice prime minister for European integration? I am not sure. Therefore, I would retain such a position, giving it additional authority. Unfortunately, not all ministers understand that European integration is not an international task. This is only part of the dialogue with external partners, the rest is a big household chore.”
The idea that the vice prime minister should be at the same time a full-fledged minister is also supported by the people’s deputy of the 8th convocation, Oleksii Honcharenko. By the way, Mr Oleksii supports the reduction of the vice-prime minister and ministries number. Without which departments could we make it and which ones are needed?
“It all depends on the tasks that the ministry faces,” the MP explained. “For example, president Zelensky said that he was going to implement an aggressive information policy, primarily aimed at Donbas and the Crimea. And this requires, perhaps, a separate Ministry of Information Policy. Or maybe he sees it differently, let’s say, the creation of a TV channel. The structure has to be got fit to the objectives, and not vice versa.”
Personnel make the difference
Often you can hear about the personnel shortage in Ukraine, in particular, managers. Experts from other countries take governmental seats. However, Vasyl Kuibida is convinced that, in fact, we ourselves can form several Cabinets of Ministers:
“National Academy of State Administration of the President of Ukraine has prepared almost 30,000 people, who are ready to work at various levels of government, in particular, as ministers and prime ministers. You just need to invite them to the conversation or to organize an appropriate competition between them or find another mechanism to identify top of the line. It is surprising that having such a cohort of trained specialists, we invite people from other states to positions in the regional administration and the ministry. It seems like we agree with Putin, who says that Ukraine is a stateless nation and the Ukrainians themselves are not capable of building a management system. In the end, this is contrary to what Shevchenko said, “Then in your own house you will see. True justice, strength, and liberty!”
“It seems to me that they will soon create a group that will be engaged in reforming the state administration system, and regulation will be carried out for all ministries from this centre,” Oleh Ustenko assured. “I support the rhetoric of the president. We must go further and deeper.”
Who is odd?
Famous Ukrainians answered the question: which ministries are odd and which ones should be created?
Mykhailo Korniyenko, professor, Doctor of Law:
“The number of ministries can really be reduced to ten or twelve. Ministry of Education, Ministry of Sports, Ministry of Culture can be merged. The Ministry of Justice should be renamed (in its Ukrainian version ‒ translator’s note). The fiscal component should be in one department.”
Vasyl Kuzan, writer, chairman of the Transcarpathian regional organization of the National Union of Writers of Ukraine:
“Ukraine needs such departments: culture and humanitarian; education and social; defense and security (including information); foreign affairs; economics and finance; internal affairs; justice; statistics, which will prepare information for all other ministries (openly on its website) and thus, will reduce the staff of district and regional state administrations by 70-80%.”
Lyudmyla Hrynevych, historian, director of the Holodomor Research and Educational Center in Ukraine (HREC in Ukraine):
“The number of ministries and officials should be reduced significantly. It is the Soviet tradition to have a huge managerial apparatus, which, as a state in a state, acts according to its own principles. What is the need for such a number of vice-ministers? In the end, the key question remains the effectiveness of the executive branch, and to determine it above all quality indicators. How professional are the management structures? Are they ready to listen, and most importantly, to hear the expert environment? In the previous government, there were big problems with this, I experienced it. And further. In the wartime, information policy, its security component is extremely unnerving. We need a special strategy and well-coordinated work of experts. We need a reasonable balance. Also, the understanding that history, historical policy in the context of war and painful separation l from the Russian imperial space and the European course is a strategic resource that Ukraine needs to use skillfully.”
Josef Zissels, dissident, former political prisoner, member of the December 1st Initiative Group:
“The problem of the effectiveness of the government in our time almost does not depend on the number of ministries, but primarily on the competence and professionalism of ministries (and these are not only ministers), but also, most importantly, on the identity of our society, because all our problems are derived from identity, that is, the value system. The first association is from Krylov’s fable: “Place yourselves any way you like; it will make no difference.”
Text by Viktor Tsvilikhovsky