Ukrainian Think Tanks Liaison Office in Brussels

Recently the International Republican Institute (IRI) presented in Ukraine the results of the Fourth Annual All-Ukrainian Municipal Survey. The residents of all regional centers of Ukraine have answered the questions on their attitude to what is going on in the country and especially in their cities.

The sociologists tend to call the current trend as an optimistic one. The share of those who believe that things in Ukraine, in general, go in the right direction has increased. The most optimistic cities are Lviv, Vinnitsia, Kropivnitsky, Lutsk, Ternopil, where “optimists” are more than 20%. Although the state statistics show a slowdown in economic growth in 2017 to 2.2% after 2.3% in 2016.

Despite the two years of economic growth, the overwhelming majority of respondents believe that the economic situation in general in the country in 2017 has deteriorated. The «pessimists» are concentrated in Sumy, Kharkiv, Odesa, Khmelnitsky.

The proportion of those who are optimistic about the situation in their own city has rapidly increased. The most dynamic improvement of mood was in Kharkiv, Chernihiv, Dnipro, Kyiv, Kropivnitsky, Sumy. Consequently, the effect of economic growth and decentralization reform is naturally reflected in changes in the living environment of cities, but this is not yet correlated in minds with the coherent picture of changes in the country.

The public mood is being formed under the influence of various short and long-term factors and the relevant assessments by people can often differ radically from estimates based on official objective statistics. In particular, the comparison of the public attitude to the relevant situation in Ukraine and the official statistics data demonstrates the significant gap between the objective data and subjective perception.

The government in Ukraine both at national and regional level uses the statistical estimates about the real state of economics, social infrastructure etc to make public policy decisions. The community’s response to these decisions is shaped by the public mood. The gap between statistics and perceptions could be the black hole where all the best reforms fail. Experts note the phenomenon of Ukrainian society’s resistance to reforms. This above-mentioned gap is one of the causes of this resistance that could be rather dangerous for further development of the country.

This «diagnosis» put the questions about effective communication between the society and authority and the inclusion of local communities members into decision-making at the local level as the most important ones. The сities where the residents assess the opportunity to participate in decision-making more positively demonstrate better institutional excellence, higher indicators of confidence to local authority and their own perspective of development within their communities. These cities are Ivano-Frankivsk, Lutsk, Rivne, Vinnitsia.

As the rating of the Ministry of Regional Development turns a blind eye to public mood, it can not act as a basis for communicating with local communities and decision-making concerning regional development. The Ministry should improve significantly the monitoring of the development of the regions, incorporating characteristics of the vital environment that are important for people (inclusion, quality of service etc.), as well as sociological assessments of the public’s mood in the region.

The work with public opinion should be an integral part of public policy decision-making. To this end, communication between the authorities (both central and local) and the public must be provided with appropriate procedures and resources:

1) to expand communication, to move to higher levels of community engagement from the one-sided reporting regime to such practice as consultations, partnership, delegation of authority and effective public control.

2) to include work with public opinion as an integral part of any plans for the implementation of state and local decisions: the control screening of people’s knowledge or attitude should be carried out at the beginning of the projects – for diagnosis, as well as the screening of results of the plans – to evaluate the effectiveness of work;

3) to follow the real results as indicators of the implementation of communication tasks. That is, an indicator of the effectiveness of communication should be the change of knowledge, understanding or attitude of citizens to specific facts;

4) provide adequate financial support for communication work (within the framework of the relevant budget programs or programs implemented with the help of donors).

The implementation of adequate information policy and institutional mechanisms for engagement of citizens is the task of national importance in the short term. The long-term task is restoring confidence in the state and in social optimism in Ukraine rather than only improving the indicators of economic development.

Authors: Marina Dadinova, Communications Director, Institute for Social and Economic Research (Kyiv, Ukraine), Yaroslav Zhalilo, Dr.Sc. (Econ), Director in Analytics, Institute of Social and Economic Research (Kyiv, Ukraine)

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