A few days ago, President Volodymyr Zelensky hesitated between two candidates for the post of prime minister. Today, his unevenness is put to an end, because Oleksiy Honcharuk is elected head of the government. The really sad part is that the head of state did not even hide the fact that he made the decision individually. According to the Constitution, the head of the Cabinet should be proposed by the coalition. However, if Zelensky’s party is a coalition, then unnecessary procedural issues might be found unnecessary. Moreover, it is already done. So, who is Oleksiy Honcharuk, who came to replace Volodymyr Groysman?
Before joining Zelensky’s team
Honcharuk is 35. His life began in the Chernihiv region, and his career started right there: his first job was at a local plant (a lawyer). Our prime minister is a lawyer; he specializes in supporting investment projects in construction, as well as helping affected investors. For some time he has been managing partner of Constructive Lawyers company, but he did not stay long in jurisprudence. Since 2014, Honcharuk, like many others, has been seized by the maelstrom of post-revolutionary public life.
During the elections to the Verkhovna Rada of the previous convocation, Honcharuk ran as a candidate from Strength of People party, which did not get to parliament, gaining only 0.1%. Since 2015, Honcharuk has been serving as a freelance adviser to ex-Minister of Ecology Igor Shevchenko. But he got involved in a corruption scandal, and Honcharuk has headed the Better Regulation Delivery Office - BRDO, a structure created with grant funds by then-Minister of Economic Development Abromavicius. Hypothetically, the office was developing reforms for the Ukrainian government.
The next milestone in Honcharuk’s biography is the launch of the political project "People Are Important." Here Honcharuk has got an opportunity to meet its co-founder Maksym Nefedov, who has been the chairman of the State Customs Service since July 2019. MP of the previous convocation Anton Herashchenko, a person close to the Minister of the Ministry of Internal Affairs Arsen Avakov, is also related to the "People are Important" project.
Another cluster of Honcharuk's acquaintances is Andriy Bogdan, the head of the presidential office, working as his deputy (responsible for economic development and reform block). Honcharuk has got acquainted with Bogdan in May 2019, he brought him to this office. The friendship of the two officials was not prevented by the fact that Honcharuk, judging from his Facebook profile, actively supported Petro Poroshenko in the last presidential election.
However, Honcharuk also likes new president Zelensky, and this sympathy is mutual. No wonder the head of state takes him with him on work trips. For example, Honcharuk flew with Zelensky to Turkey as part of an official delegation, and also attended the meeting with representatives of the World Bank with the president.
One more manifestation of the president’s favor for the prime minister is that the latter held several of his BRDO colleagues on the list of Servant of the People. So, in addition to Honcharuk himself, Olena Shuliak, Oleksandr Orzhel, Vitaliy Bezgin, and Denys Malyuka became the MPs.
There is an opinion among experts that Honcharuk will work with those ministers whom he would be said to. The head of the government will not have a choice.
Merely technical PM
Kost Bondarenko, the founder of the "Gorshenin Institute," analytical center, commented on Honcharuk’s new position and the formation of the government. "This is a team game. Whoever is appointed, they will still have a single decision-making center in the parliament, in the Cabinet of Ministers. And a little will depend on one person." Bondarenko means Zelensky and his team to be such a decision-making center.
Honcharuk is not an independent player, Bogdan Petrenko, deputy director of the Ukrainian Institute for the Study of Extremism, says. “The man was brought into power, so there must be some appreciation on his part, and this already corrects the issue of independence. Moreover, not a single political team in Ukraine needed an independent MP. Moreover, if we are talking about a team that is trying to control everything. Another question is how strongly would he be controlled from the outside. For we are talking about representatives of a public organization, funded by Soros. Will the influence of the US Democratic Party be felt?”
The expert emphasizes once again: Honcharuk is someone acceptable to all but one person. "Ex-minister Abromavicius brought Honcharuk into politics, introduced him to Bogdan, and Bogdan liked him. Honcharuk can be considered a figure that is agreed with the external donors. Trump is the only one with whom he is not agreed," Petrenko says.
Andriy Zolotariov, the head of the center "Third Sector," confirms the fact that Honcharuk is "close to the grant-eaters and Soros." In general, the expert characterizes the new prime minister as follows: “A purely technical prime minister who will fulfill the will of Bankova and Zelensky directly and will not play an independent role in the power structures. But of those who were offered, he is the least toxic figure, because he has the best background than Kobolev or Rashkovan," Zolotariov notes.
Not Balcerowicz and not Laffer
Once the issue of "toxicity" and "convenience" has been sorted out, it is fair to ask what are the chances of Oleksiy Honcharuk to boost the Ukrainian economy. Unfortunately, financial analyst Oleksiy Kushch notes that “Honcharuk’s personality is absolutely uninteresting. He never managed either government institutions or large business projects. His background is clearly not enough to manage the Ukrainian economy right away. So he will be the technical prime minister, but not a technocrat because there is a significant difference between these things."
“A technocrat,” explains Kushch, “is someone who has significant work experience and has already led significant projects, but has neither political ambitions nor pronounced political sympathies. A technocrat is invited to the post so that he fulfills ambitious goals on economic development. Now if they invited Balcerowicz or Arthur Laffer, one of the parents of Reaganomics, they would be called technocrats.”
“But here,” the expert continues, “in the conditions of a corrupt economy, such appointments, and access to power for ambitious and essentially independent people are simply impossible. Therefore, instead of a government of technocrats, we might have a technical government, but in fact a call center, that sits on the hotline line with Bankova and receives instructions from the presidential office. Under these conditions, we need a weak prime minister, with a lowered set of ambition and a low level of support in expert circles."
Summing up our bleak prospect, Kushch adds that with the appointment of Honcharuk, "the model of governing the country that has begun to emerge becomes clearer."
“Honcharuk is appointed to launch large privatization processes in Ukraine. Budget issues will also be on the agenda,” Bohdan Petrenko says.
Andriy Zolotariov believes that having assumed the post of head of government, Honcharuk will first of all open the land market, because "state debts are obligated." In general, according to the expert, Honcharuk "is not the worst candidate for mutual understanding with the IMF." But "the main challenge is another wave of the global economic crisis. And it will be a very powerful test for Honcharuk," the expert says.
20 ready-made bills
As for the direct speech of Honcharuk himself, the experts warn: it will not be easy to hear it. Honcharuk does not like publicity, and most likely he would be communicating with the media through press releases. However, recently he gave an interview to Novoye Vriemia, slightly unveiling plans above his plans.
The first thesis relates to continued cooperation with the IMF. “It is extremely important for us, as for the country,” Honcharuk said, adding that Ukraine has a long relationship with the Fund. The proper implementation of its obligations is relevant to Ukraine. "This is not even a question of money, it is more about trust," he stressed.
Honcharuk shared with NV and his own vision of priority reforms, adding that many reform bills have already been written, so they just need to be adopted and implemented. “Reforms are very concrete changes: the opening of the land market and the free circulation of capital, normal access to electricity networks and equal access to natural resources," he said.
He also announced the unlocking of the land market until the end of 2019. Then, according to his calculations, large privatization will start. He noted that discussions are ongoing with the World Bank on models for land reform and the possibility of acquiring land by the foreigners. According to Honcharuk’s forecasts, even the most conservative model of the land market will accelerate economic growth by 0.5% of GDP, and the most liberal - by 3% per year.
With regard to the extent of privatization, Honcharuk advocates hammering out Ukrposhta (State Postal Service), Ukrzaliznytsia (State Railways), as well as state-owned banks. "When we talk about a package of economic reforms, I can name at least 20 bills that are already elaborated and are waiting for being adopted," he boasts.
We’ll see, whether Honcharuk implements his plans. For example, Ukrainians have heard about “big privatization” since the time of Arseniy Yatsenyuk’s premiership. Specifically, there is one point in this story: it is not enough just to make a strong-willed decision on the sale of state-owned objects, it is also necessary that the buyers like the lots. However, this is a long story, and Oleksiy Honcharuk has a special day today. The weekdays will begin tomorrow.