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How to make Ukrainians less vulnerable to populism?

Populist movements are gaining more and more traction all over the world. Ukraine is not an exception: our research shows that on average 84% of Ukrainians support populist policies, while 59% not only support populist policies but also view them as realistic. Our research shows that economically disadvantaged groups (people who lack opportunities in education, employment, etc.) are more likely to support such policies. To a lesser extent, support of populism is also correlated with a lack of critical thinking in everyday life. On the other hand, differences in populism support between different age groups or regions are not statistically significant.

Is reducing populism support possible? Our research shows that it is. Giving the individual a choice between two policies leads to a significant decrease in populism support: on average from 84% to 54%.  Appealing to one’s personal benefit is especially effective. On the other hand, in some issues, the support of populism remains unchanged, regardless of the arguments used. One such example is price controls. Our results show that those who support price controls do not change their minds when presented with the arguments against it. In other cases, it is much easier to change respondents’ opinions: the results show that the majority of respondents have changed their minds about at least three out of eight populist policies. Furthermore, we do not observe major differences between those who were convinced by arguments and those who were not.

In order to reduce populism support among Ukrainians, we recommend:

  • Paying special attention to economically disadvantaged groups.
  • Offering alternatives to populist policies.
  • Tailoring arguments to each target audience; emphasizing the harm of populism for each particular audience, rather than the country as a whole.
  • Allocating more resources to fight against populism in those issues where it is harder to change people’s opinions.
  • Avoiding excessive use of emotional rhetoric – it does not work if used excessively.
  • Investing in developing critical thinking.
11 September 2019
Principles of reforms in Ukraine: a vision of civil society

“Toronto principles” — is the vision document that describes key Ukraine reform priorities for 2019-2013 and that was developed by a group of civil society experts coordinated by the Reanimation Package of Reforms Coalition between December 2018 and June 2019 through a series of regional and national consultations in Ukraine. Additionally, over 100 sectoral experts provided their input. It consolidates the perspectives of over 90 Ukrainian reform-minded civil society organizations (CSOs) on their aspirations for the future of Ukraine. It is anticipated that this platform will enable continued CSO dialogue and joint collaboration on implementing democratic reforms in Ukraine.

The policy brief on economic development of the Toronto principles was prepared by Hlib Vyshlinsky, Executive Director of the Centre for Economic Strategy, member of the Coalition Board, the Reanimation Package of Reforms, co-authored with Dmitry Livch, head of the analytical department, project manager of EasyBusiness. Anna Derevyanko, Executive Director of the European Business Association (EBA), has been invited to peer review the economic development brief.

According to the document, the growth of investments is a key task and a mechanism for promoting Ukraine’s economic development. An important prerequisite here is to preserve macroeconomic stability, which is impossible without a responsible fiscal and politically independent monetary policy. Is expected that the following reforms could give a nudge to investment-based economic growth:

  • Open agricultural land market – the adoption of a law regulating the sale of agricultural land and thus lifting the moratorium.
  • Privatization of all large state-owned enterprises which are allowed to be sold in particular, state-owned banks, and a significant reduction of the list of state-owned enterprises which are prohibited for privatization. Independent supervisory boards should be established at all large state-owned enterprises. Parliament should adopt a new law on empowerment and increase the political independence of supervisory boards.
  • Simplification and optimization of customs procedures, establishment of the institute of the authorized economic operator. This will make Ukrainian companies more competitive in global value chains.
  • Reform of the fiscal service and establishment of financial intelligence service which will replace the tax police and numerous crime fighting units in law enforcement agencies. The goal is to create a tax and customs service that is friendly and transparent, as well as financial intelligence service that will apply analysis rather than force. Employees of these new services need to be employed after a complete integrity check. It is necessary to establish competitive salaries for them by introducing personal responsibility, and reduce their number through processes automation.
  • Liberalization of capital movement and regulation of foreign exchange transactions. New law on currency transactions was adopted in 2018, it gave the National Bank the freedom to regulate them by its decisions. This freedom should be used to make Ukraine more open to capital movements and trade in line with EU practice.

Implementation of these reforms will make Ukraine more attractive both for foreign and for domestic investments, and will also contribute to the growth of the economy by 5-7% annually over a long period of time. In addition, it will make the Ukrainian economy more resistant to crises. Together, these steps will help bring Ukraine’s welfare closer to the level of the new EU member states.

3 July 2019