The course towards decentralization, announced by the current authorities, was accompanied by an abundance of slogans and talks about the solvency and independence of the new communities. In practice, the process ends exactly the same way as all the previous initiatives of the new power — failure. We received a new “map” of social, property, budget, legal and political conflicts. Deputy Chairman of the OPPOSITION BLOC faction Serhiy Liovochkin wrote about it in his blog “Imitation of decentralization”.
According to him, in financial terms, local self-government has become richer only on paper. “The share of own revenues of local budgets (without transfers) in the consolidated budget remains low. For 2019, it will be 22.5% (in fact, for 7 months of 2018 - 21.8%), whereas in 2013, before all reforms on decentralization, it was 23.8%,” the opposition politician emphasized.
“The Ministry of Regional Development openly admits that a quarter of the united territorial communities, formally recognized as valid, in fact, cannot cope with their obligations,” Serhiy Lovochkin said.
“Currently, medicine is in a special risk zone, and its expenses are systematically underfunded at the local level. Financing of medical subventions is reduced by UAH 3.9 billion – from UAH 59.4 billion in 2018 to UAH 55.5 billion in 2019,” the parliamentarian emphasized.
According to him, the draft State Budget-2019 continues the “tradition” of 2015–2018 on the transfer of social infrastructure facilities, educational and medical institutions from local budgets. Thus, in 2019, the obligation to finance 69 technical schools and colleges (universities of I-II level) will be transferred to the local level, including 10 - the Dnipropetrovsk region, 9 – the Zaporizhzhia region, 6 – the Donetsk region.
“According to the calculations of the Association of Cities of Ukraine, published together with the draft State Budget - 2019, the educational and medical subventions are underfinanced totally by UAH 11.8 billion. Nearly two hundred newly formed united territorial communities do not have enough resources for high-quality and affordable medical, educational and administrative services for local residents. What additional opportunities for local development can we talk about when the reform of decentralization is accompanied by the “optimization” of schools and hospitals?” Serhiy Lovochkin emphasized.
The politician also noted that decentralization in this form did not solve the problem of local power dualism. Regional and district councils have not received the right to form executive committees. The leaders of regional and district state administrations, appointed by the top level of the authorities, continue to concentrate maximum powers in the local level. Regional state administrations develop draft long-term plans for the unification of territorial communities and have a casting vote in the application process for the State Regional Development Fund. Moreover, a Regional state administration distributes educational subventions from the state budget to local authorities, including the united territorial communities. Is it possible to call this direct budgetary relations of the united territorial community with the state budget?” the oppositionist not.
Serhiy Lovochkin led a number of initiatives that can ensure full decentralization.
“Firstly, the regional and district councils must finally get the right to form the relevant executive committees. This is the basic condition for the liberation of communities from the dictates of the central bureaucracy.
Secondly, the expansion of the financial base of local self-government for the implementation of new powers is necessary. In particular, through changes to the Tax and Budget Codes for additional decentralization of revenues from taxes and fees.
Thirdly, in the course of real decentralization, it is necessary to substantially adjust the powers of the central authorities. This should be done so that the situation with the education reform does not repeat. All issues on financing this sphere were transferred to the local level, but at the same time, they did not restrict the Ministry of Education in the right to turn the system “upside down” he wrote.
“It is important in practice to ensure the participation of citizens in the solution of important issues for the community and the region, primarily of a socio-cultural and humanitarian nature. Issues of languages, cultural and historical heritage must be addressed in local referendums and plebiscites. To do this, the appropriate laws must be adopted,” Serhiy Lovochkin concluded.
More information about the process of decentralization in Ukraine is available here.