Ukraine’s American Finance Minister Now Demands PM Yatsenyuk’s Job or Else

What happens when you combine the universally fashionable clamoring for technocratic rule of “experts” with the uniquely Eastern European worship of a mythical wise and competent west? You get a strong likelihood your “democracy” will look suspiciously like rule by foreigners who never stood for election in your country, never mind won any.

Welcome to Kiev 2016.    

Ukraine’s 2014 post-Maidan party elections passed without Natalie Jaresko. She wasn’t on any of the party lists as she was not eligible to run being a US citizen. She was placed in charge of the country’s finances, regardless, largely on her prestige as an ‘American expert’.

Now she is throwing down the gauntlet, and making a play to be handed over the running of the entire government. Her selling point? Only a “technocratic” government composed of people without “future political ambitions” can deliver Ukraine from its sorry present state:

There comes a time when politics needs to be great, so that the whole country comes together to address fundamental issues for its future.

In my opinion, only technocratic government can address these challenges. The new team must ‘belong’ to nobody other than the people of Ukraine.

New leaders should have no political past or, indeed, have no desire for any political future. The team must not be subject to the domination of the oligarchs or any politicians’ ‘friends’. 

I am ready to assemble such a team that right now is able to work in the interest of the whole country, all its citizens, not some political or business groups.

In other words, oligarch Poroshenko get out of the way so that expert Jaresko can fix the mess.

Trouble with that is that Poroshenko and his crony Groysman who is the Parliament speaker and the other candidate to replace Yatsenyuk as PM have at least been elected to something, while Jaresko has never even stood as a candidate.

The other trouble is that beneath the nice talk of “the whole country coming together” and “working in the interest of the whole country” there is an implicit threat in Jaresko’s play:

The stakes are higher now because if Jaresko is not given the top job, she may well resign. This would have an even bigger impact than Abromavicius’ departure, as she has been so high profile during the negotiations to restructure Ukraine’s debt and in a fight with Russia over a $3bn Eurobond that Kyiv is refusing to repay.

That’s right. Jaresko wants to bring the whole country together (under her) and work for all its citizens (as their boss), but if she isn’t given the chance then she will take her toys and go home and let Ukraine fend for itself.

What would that mean in practice is that Ukraine would be cut off from any future IMF money:

She is by far the favourite of Ukraine’s international donors, who are already extremely unhappy with the lack of change or visible commitment to reform in Ukraine. 

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) de facto suspended Ukraine’s stand-by agreement without formally saying so, and has not made a transfer for five months now. 

The last tranche of $1.7bn was supposed to come in February following the government’s adoption of an IMF-compliant tax code, but Abromavicius’ departure started a fresh political crisis that has put everyone off.

Appointing Jaresko PM would end this crisis and should avoid the need for calling early elections.

Jaresko presents herself as being the ultimate outsider beholden to no one, but actually she is looked upon favorably by Ukraine’s western creditors (erroneously described as “donors”).

Far from being an independent operator without a clan of her own it only so happens that her connections are to power centers outside rather than within Ukraine.

Now the former US State Department official is leveraging the ties to western finance to its maximum to try and take control of the government for herself and the outside interests she represents.

In fact two of her key demands for any members of the new government under her are that they have no loyalties to any Ukrainian parties:

1. Members of the government should be devoted exclusively to serving the people of Ukraine; not themselves nor their party nor vested interests. The main criterion for team members is impeccable reputation;

And that they cooperate with the IMF:

4. They all should believe that Ukraine can be successful only through democratic and economic freedoms, in particular, through the implementation of the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement and IMF program;

So Ukrainians, do you want the Poroshenko candidate, or the IMF candidate?

Think carefully.

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