Heads of the amalgamated territorial communities of Ternopil region share their experience on how decentralization changed the economic landscape of the region.
Decentralization in Ternopil region resulted in 36 amalgamated territorial communities, four cities of regional significance, and 10 to 14 communities to be set up over the next few years. In 2014, the revenue of the communities constituted UAH 1,1 billion (approx. EUR 35,1 million or $42 million). After communities’ unification, local budgets increased 8 to 10 times on average. Thus, the Velykodederkalska amalgamated territorial community that was formed only in 2016, demonstrated a 10-time budget increase in just one year. These numbers were unveiled by Stepan Barna, head of the Ternopil regional state administration, speaking at a press-briefing at Ukraine Crisis Media Center (UCMC) in the framework of UCMC’s project Spokespersons of Communities. “It illustrates the unique opportunities provided by decentralization. The region used to be considered depressive, incapable of implementing the projects and being self-sufficient. Today we have the dynamics: the forecast for the end of 2017 – $3,2 to $3,7 billion revenue for the local budgets,” said the head of the Ternopil regional state administration.
However, the communities face several challenges. One of them is the long-standing land issue. It is crucial for the communities to be able to have the lands outside of the populated areas at their disposal. “We will be able then to develop the money assessment of the land and negotiate directly with land tenants as well as agree on the rent payment. Currently, the farms operate outside of the populated areas, they neither make rent agreements nor pay taxes. If the land was part of the populated area, the situation would be different,” said Anatoliy Kulyk, head of the Baykovetska amalgamated territorial community.
Despite the fact that the respective law is still not adopted, the amalgamated communities are developing and actively working. “While we are waiting for the law to be adopted, we resolve the issue by means of the general plan. This opportunity emerged only after we united into the community. The most recent general plan of the city was compiled in the 1960s. We are now finalizing the work over the up-to-date one. Meanwhile, the main part of the community’s territory lies outside of the populated areas, we do not have it at our disposal and cannot influence the situation,” explained Volodymyr Pletiuk, head of the Shumska amalgamated territorial community.
The decentralization process has embraced over the half of cities and towns in Ternopil region. Including the villages and towns of the neighboring districts into the communities became possible due to the respective law, however, there are other obstacles to the reform. Among them are the village and town heads who are fully content with the status quo. “The problem is in the heads of some village-level leaders. They claim that their salaries have been increased, so they don’t need to unite into a community anymore. They do not care that the people are not getting quality services and that the territory is not developing. Educational work needs to be conducted with the population, as it would be impossible to convince the village heads. The initiative has to come bottom up, we will then be able to finalize the decentralization on a voluntary basis,” emphasized Kulyk.
On October 29, the newly established communities are holding elections. Community heads and the head of the regional administration call to vote not for the “political flags” but for the leaders capable of handling community’s daunting issues. “People are aware of who has the influence in this or that territory. The only thing we persistently ask for is for the youngsters to actively take part in the elections. Our elections are mostly attended by older people, while the young people are not that active. But it is them who have to make the choice and change their own life,” said the head of the Baykovetska community.