Why Ukrainians perceive current 144 reforms as dead

Author : Yuriy Hryhorenko

Opinion polls show Ukrainians do not see improvements from reforms, and, as a result, these changes are not supported
13:00, 27 February 2019

Open source

Opinion polls show that Ukrainians do not see improvements from reforms, and, as a result, they are not supported. On the eve of the elections, the government is trying to demonstrate the results, but seem to be concentrated simply on Poroshenko’s pre-election campaign “language”, “faith,” “army,” and a pinch of decentralization.

Related: Army, language, and faith - three pillars of Poroshenko's pre-election game

Experts still highlight positive changes for business, but against the background of general disappointment, does not look impressive. Back in 2017, President Poroshenko said that 144 reforms were carried out in Ukraine. The list of reforms, of course, was not attached, but it was assumed that the guarantor assesses them as successful.

Obviously, some changes were called "reforms," although, most likely, they cannot be considered as such.

When asked, which reforms out of these 144 ones could you name, at best, Ukrainians will call a few, which they are directly related to – pension, healthcare, police, decentralization.

Related: Ukraine backs down from funded second pillar of pension reform in 2019, – IMF memo

On the one hand, Ukrainians feel the need for reform. According to a survey conducted in September 2018 by the Rating sociological group, 64% of respondents believe that Ukraine needs radical changes, and only 12% of Ukrainians are in favor of keeping everything as it is. On the other hand, Ukrainians perceive reforms, but only those that give quick and clear results (positive, of course).

Longer-term reforms could be also perceived, but the reaction to them is often more negative. As a result, for many reasons, Ukrainians do not share the optimism of the authorities in terms of assessing the success of the reforms.

According to the results of the May 2018 poll conducted by the Ilko Kucheriv Democratic Initiatives Foundation together with the Razumkov Center, almost 61% of respondents do not believe in the success of reforms, but 38% still have certain expectations. The respondents named the oligarchs, the bureaucracy and the officials, the Cabinet of Ministers, the president and the majority party in the Rada as an impediment for the reforms in the country. Also, 62% of respondents indicated that they are not willing to endure material difficulties due to the reforms.

Related: IMF Head notes reforms progress in Ukraine

At that time, the respondents named anti-corruption (58%), medical (47%), pension, and social protection (44%), law enforcement (32%), officials' lustration (29%), and army reform (22%) as top-priority changes in Ukraine

According to the survey conducted by the Democratic Initiatives Foundation and Kyiv International Institute of Sociology in the fall of 2017, reform of law enforcement agencies, changes in electoral legislation, anti-corruption reform, decentralization, and government reform were among the high priorities.

Causes of radical response

There are several objective reasons why Ukrainians rather negatively assess the results of the reforms, but many of them are rooted in a person’s psychology. Firstly, this is a high gap between the incomes of an ordinary Ukrainian and the official, it results in a justified sense of total social injustice.

Secondly, this is the reluctance of the Ukrainians themselves to change something, because there are uncertainty and a fear of change. Reforms are a change in the functioning of certain mechanisms and procedures. If society does not begin to live according to new procedures, there is no point in such reforms.

Related: Q&A: Why are Ukraine's last reformers being kicked out?

Another problem is the information component. Opinion polls show that the public has small or incomprehensible information. Healthcare and pension reforms were widely covered, but information resistance of those opposed to these reforms was strong as well. But it cannot be said that other reforms were covered as widely and easily. There is an eternal battle between the “TV” (sweet promises) and the “refrigerator” (harsh reality) and the last usually wins.

For example, land reform rests not only on reluctance but also on the time constraints; none of the current government will dare to speak for opening the land market, which is not supported by about 75% of Ukrainians. At the same time, the healthcare reform is carried, regardless of the opinion of the population.

Related: Ukraine should focus on land reform and privatization, - IMF

Successful reforms

The opinion poll, conducted in the autumn of 2017, showed that 11% of respondents fully support the educational reform, 8% of the respondents laud the changes in healthcare and pension systems, and 39% of the respondents support some provisions.

In addition, 41% totally do not support the healthcare reform, 39% of respondents hate the pension reform. Education reform is not supported by 29% of respondents. Only the pension reform (9%), the education reform (5%) and the army reform (5%) were recognized as relatively successful.

Not a single successful reform was indicated by 77% of the population. That is two of the most important reforms – judicial and anti-corruption reform have been failed completely.

Related: Ministers did not consider double burden effect in pension reform in Ukraine

The introduction of the ProZorro system is often attributed to fairly successful reforms, although dishonest businessmen have already learned how to bypass regulatory requirements for public procurement, the system is constantly being improved.

Related: Ukroboronprom calls investigation about embezzlements manipulation

For example, February 25, Nashi Hroshi program alleged that Ihor Hladkovsky, the son of close Poroshenko ally Oleh Hladkovsky, deputy secretary of the National Security and Defense Council, organized a corruption scheme to smuggle spare military-equipment parts from Russia in 2015. State defense facilities purchased the smuggled spare parts from private companies linked to Hladkovsky and his friends at highly inflated prices. Ukroboronprom state concern, which supervises defense industry production facilities, knew the origin of the smuggled parts but agreed to purchase them.

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