fondation hirondelle // ukraine project

New roads
towards growth

In Turka, situated in the Lviv region (West), reform of the customs service provides new funds that no longer go back to Kiev, but serve to build new roads
In Turka (Lviv region)
With decentralization, money finally comes to "God's forgotten places". Peter Kosachevych has been asking the central government for money for over 25 years. Bestowed with the title of Cultural Worker of Ukraine and Chairman of the World Boyko Congress, Kosachevych lives in Turka, a village located 135 kilometers from Lviv, in Western Ukraine.
The Boykos, the Ukrainians from the mountains, are an ethnographic group located in the Carpathian region. They have maintained their culture through the organization of festivals and cultural events despite the poor state of the roads to their village, which limits the number of tourists that visit.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, industrial plants and so-called agricultural kolkhozh closed. The fields are now overgrown with weeds. Dairy production could increase, yet the sector is difficult to develop because of a lack of decent roads. This is not just a matter of tarmac: in general, it's been a long time that public funds, or just any kind of money, no longer reach Turka.
Over an 80 kilometer stretch, there is only one service station, and drivers prefer not use these roads at all, for fear of damaging their cars. Accordingly, investors from Lviv also prefer to avoid the area. Peter Kosachevych has even reached out to Peter Yatsyk for help, a rich Canadian businessman with Boyko roots. But he declined. He had already tried to finance other projects that were never implemented and he saw his money disappear within the administration in Kiev.

Ruslan Kandybor has been the head of road maintenance for the Lviv region for over 10 years. He remembers 2012, the year that the Euro football tournament was held in Ukraine and in Poland, and Lviv was named host city, as well as Kiev, Kharkiv and Donetsk. Money began to flow from Kiev to Lviv, from the central budget to the local. But it all went to repairing roads in the region's biggest city Lviv, which hosted games, as well as to the roads used by football fans to reach the newly built ultra-modern football stadium.

Roads such as those connecting Lviv-Turka certainly did not see any money come their way. In addition, during that time, many small companies went out of business – they were never fully paid by the state for their work. That's why in the region, the Euro 2012 has sometimes left a bitter memory.
With decentralization, Ruslan Kandybor now has enough money in the coffers to convince these business owners. With a huge smile, he explains that he has around 1 billion hryvnias today (around 36.7 million Euros), more than enough for the road work needed. The head of the road system no longer needs to convince companies to work for them.
"the more money there is,
the greater the risks of corruption."

— Ruslan Kandybor,
roads maintenance, Lviv region
But "the more money there is, the greater the risks of corruption," admits Ruslan Kandybor.
In Ukraine, money systematically brings about an increase in corruption, a problem that is eating away at the country. Kandybor has declared war on corruption within his department. When he announced the new rules to his staff, 7 people immediately quit and 10 percent were fired, which allowed the salaries of those that remained to increase.

Experts warn of the same risk. With the decentralization of a part of the budget, the risk of political corruption at the local level increases tenfold. Local governments have never had so much money in their hands, and it poses a temptation. Myroslav Simka, a civil society activist, shares this view, and has launched a new campaign to fight against corruption, called "public tenders and crime", which monitors government spending in 5 regions of Western Ukraine.
Decentralization will bring around 1.5 billion dollars to Lviv's coffers, highlights Myroslav Simka. An incomparable sum compared to past years, while some administrative procedures have not yet changed. Consequently, the head of the roads system in Lviv, Ruslan Kandybor, also believes that monitoring by civil society is needed.
Despite these calls for improving the roads, changes have not come as fast as the governor of the Lviv region would like. "We need to go talk to people, explain to them, convince them that if everyone fulfils his or her responsibilities, life in the region can improve," explains Oleg Synyutka. The customs office based in Lviv already understands this. As a part of decentralization and as a test, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko decided that half of the revenue from the customs office would remain in the regional budget and would go towards road maintenance.

Admittedly, the Lviv region is strategic: it is the main place of transit between Poland and Ukraine, the boarder is never far. But this is a decision without precedent in Ukraine: before, all customs revenue went directly to Kiev and rarely made its way back. Customs officers were seen as simple racketeers, at the service of the capital. Today, everything has changed for them.
At the end of 2015, the customs office in Lviv succeeded in generating 283 million Euros to go to roads in the region. Work began immediately. For 2016, they hope to reach one billion hryvnias. The better the roads in the region, the more the customs officers will be appreciated.

The road to Turka has already benefited from these new policies and motivations. The road leading to the village will be finished by the end of 2016. At 68 years old, Peter Kosachevych will not have waited 25 years in vain. He already hopes that the dairy industry will pick back up and especially that the world can again discover Boyko culture. The next international Boyko festival, which takes place every 5 years, will be held in 2017 in Turka. He believes that improved access thanks to an enjoyable new road will certainly help draw the crowds.
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