"Who’s going to be the first to say, 'Oh, I’m going to give up that slot that I got through this little consideration'. People want an end to corruption. Getting there is hard and changing that whole philosophy is a lot harder. It’s the work of generations"
NOOSA – The New York Times provides a first rate briefing each day on the Russia-Ukraine War.
The other morning Marie Yovanovitch, who served as US ambassador to Ukraine from 2016 to 2019, spoke to Times journalist, Yana Dlugy.
During her three years in Kiev, Yovanovitch’s major focus was on corruption.
So much did this concern Donald Trump she was recalled to Washington.
And Trump’s concern? He and his cronies saw her as an impediment to their illegitimate business and political dealings with Ukraine.
It struck me on reading Marie Yovanovitch’s words that they offer some useful advice to Papua New Guinea, jammed in its own corrupt hole.
Marie Yovanovitch says….
Corruption in Ukraine and in other countries of the former Soviet Union, and especially in Russia, is the malign legacy of the Soviet Union, where government did not work.
The leadership were stealing and padding their own nests, and the people were left to figure out how they were going to get medical services for a family member, how they were going to get telephones hooked up in their apartment, etc.
And you find a way. You find a person who can help you and you give them a little ‘consideration’.
So on the one hand you have the grand corruption, the grand larceny where millions and billions are being taken away from government coffers so there is nothing left to provide services to the people.
But the petty corruption sets up that parallel system of governance.
And that is a problem because it doesn’t end when you start putting in reforms.
Who’s going to be the first to say, “Oh, I’m going to give up that slot that I got through this little consideration.”
People want an end to corruption.
Getting there is hard and changing that whole philosophy is a lot harder.
It’s the work of generations.
It happens with neighbours talking to neighbours, with it being inculcated in schools, in churches and in all of the social institutions.
This is a transformational kind of a change, it’s not something that you can do with a stroke of a pen.
In the past, there certainly was corruption, especially in the procurement process.
This is not unique, we can see it in the Russian military, we can frankly see it in our own [US military], because that’s where the money is.
One of the things that we were working with the Ukrainians on was to help parliament get a measure of oversight on those procurement processes because, as we know, in democracies, when there are eyes on, it’s always harder to do your side deals.
In my time, we didn’t get as far as we wanted, but I know that work continued and hopefully it is helping with that process.
After the war, there are going to be billions of dollars’ worth of assistance coming in.
That means lots of money, and so lots of opportunities to sideline some of that money.
It’s going to be important that there is lots of oversight.
And conditionality*, frankly.
That’s going to be tough after this very difficult period for Ukraine.
But I think it’s going to be crucially important to ensure that a negotiated plan of how the Ukrainians want to move forward actually does happen. I think conditionality helps.
The end of the war is going to be a huge opportunity to build a new Ukraine, a Ukraine that Ukrainians had been wanting to build for many, many years.
* In international relations, conditionality is the use of conditions attached to contracts and the provision of benefits such as development aid, loans or debt relief