Despite the façade of change, Ukraine continues to tread water
This article originally appeared at Business New Europe
Ukraine remains Europe's most corrupt country, and one of the most corrupt countries in the world, according to the 2014 Corruption Perceptions Index compiled by international NGO Transparency International.
The rating shows almost no improvement with the situation before a revolution promising a crackdown on corruption was victorious in February 2014. Ukraine now takes 142th place out of 175 in the world, one up from 2013. "Despite the façade of change, Ukraine continues to tread water," said Oleksii Khmara, Executive Director of Transparency International Ukraine.
According to Khmara, there has been "hardly noticeable progress in destruction of corruption schemes that remained after all the previous ruling regimes since Ukraine became independent," despite the ousting of former president Viktor Yanukovych in February 2014, who the opposition accused of corruption. Khmara noted that the post-Yanukovych government had adopted certain laws and declared reforms, but this was "not enough".
Following fresh elections on October 26, Ukraine's parliament voted in a new government on December 2 with an explicitly anti-corruption mandate. Three foreign experts were given ministerial posts in the new cabinet, in the hope that this will reduce corruption.
New health minister Aleksandr Kvitashvili, the former health minister of Georgia who took Ukrainian citizenship on December 2, promised "an entirely new system of state procurement for the government health service”, in comments to press following his appointment. New Lithuanian economy minister Aivaras Abromavicius said he would sack most of his ministry officials and that the government would proceed transparently in a European fashion.
But even on such a hopeful day, the spectre of corruption loomed over the government. A prominent Western journalist blogged that "over the period of the last 12 hours three people independent of each other have written to me to complain of corruption linked to [prime minister Arseny] Yatsenyuk, two of them were foreign investors, with considerable experience of the country."
Another false note was struck by the official biography circulated to members of parliament when voting on the nomination of Valery Voschevsky as deputy prime minister for infrastructure, overseeing transport and construction. His official biography listed that in his previous post as head of the state road construction company "he tried to steal" from a subsidiary, leading to a criminal case being opened against him. Oleh Liashko, leader of the Radical party which nominated Voschevsky, later said that the inclusion of the corruption allegation on the official CV had been a "provocation" targeted against his party.
In the rest of the former CIS region, Russia dropped three positions to 136th place in Transparency International report, while Belarus improved to 119th place.
All Central Asian and South Caucasus countries improved their standings, except for Turkmenistan, with Armenia retaining its place from the 2013 ranking.
Compared to 2013, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan made the biggest leaps, jumping 14 places to 126th and 136th respectively. Azerbaijan moved up one place to 126th from last year's index, while Uzbekistan and Tajikistan climbed two places up to 166th and 152th, respectively. Mongolia jumped three ranks to 80th place.
Turkmenistan, one of the world's most isolated countries, moved down one place to 169th. Armenia didn't change its place at 94th.
With the score of 52, Georgia - 50th in 2014, up four notches from 2013 - ranks highest among the 19 countries of Eastern Europe and Central Asia. Georgia also scored higher than a number of EU member states: the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Croatia, Bulgaria, Greece, Italy and Romania.