15 June 2024

Rayons: “weak link” or territory development centres

Decentralisation is in acute need of the next stage and prudent managerial decisions. One of them is the formation of a new administrative-territorial structure based on the “hromada – rayon – region” formula. Domestic reformers and our European counterparts say that it is at least foolish to stop now and wait for “better times” to come.

Today's model of state administration of territories in Ukraine resembles a multistory appartment house, in which every tenth apartment has already been renovated. And in the rest, kitchens and corridors were hastily painted and rooms decorated with the cheapest wallpaper of the 1981 model – the very time when the currently valid decree of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR on the administrative-territorial structure was adopted.

It is unlikely that residents of 900 newly amalgamated hromadas with a population of more than nine million people will move to such a building again.

How can quantity become quality?

It is quite right that the issue is not only in the excessive number of rayons, but above all in their quality. In fact, it is more appropriate to form 100 rayons than to have 490 of them, many of which lack significant resources and adequate opportunities to solve people's problems.

Having considered the proposals from different regions, having familiarised with the position of leading local self-government associations, the ideologists of decentralisation proposed to identify the formation of new capable subregional level as one of the main tasks for the period until 2020.

It is proposed to create 100 new capable rayons in Ukraine. The idea is attractive, although, of course, it is not easy to make this very difficult issue a reality.

According to the principle of competence distribution

In Poland, there are currently 379 counties (powiats) (including 65 cities with county status) preserved, which are responsible for secondary education and county hospitals, take care of construction and maintenance of roads on their territory, organise civil protection, concern with the state of the environment and employment issues. Counties preserved the competence of representation of all hromadas on the respective territory.

It is also worthwhile to add that in most Scandinavian countries with developed democracy, in particular in Sweden, Norway, Denmark, a two-tier administrative-territorial division has been successfully operating for many years: municipalities and district / region.

Reformers themselves

Experts from the Ukrainian Association of Rayon and Oblast Councils analysed the situation in detail and came to conclusion that the territories of the existing rayons are ineffective both in terms of economics and management, which significantly limits the possibilities for further sustainable development.

Conclusion: the current administrative-territorial structure is increasingly changing, though not systematically and according to the plan, but rather chaotically and not always in view of people’s interests.

They started with consultations

To the credit of the Ukrainian Association of Rayon and Oblast Councils, it was not only the first to voice the problem of inefficient rayons at the national level, but also to offer its vision of possible solution.

The Association's experts traveled to the regions, studied the local realities in detail, took part in eight roundtable discussions, met with a local self-government activists.

The experts, in the light of current realities, have modeled a new subregional level of governance in the Donetsk, Luhansk, Ternopil and Kharkiv Oblasts, having significantly reduced the number of current rayons.

To be continued

The Association is ready to continue the work begun. Four draft laws have already been prepared here, with the adoption of which it would be possible to accelerate the process of the decentralisation reform at the subregional level in the four oblasts, until such changes are introduced into the current Constitution. At the end of the year they are going to continue the practice of pilot modelling of the rayon level in relation to other regions as well. A separate draft law, as explained by experts, should delineate the powers of the local self-government bodies and state executive authorities. Then one can expect that the next local council elections will take place on a new territorial basis.

Iryna Nahrebetska, independent journalist. The publication was prepared with the assistance of the Council of Europe Programme "Decentralisation and Local Self-Government Reform in Ukraine

The full version is available in Ukrainian – please click HERE

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