Reduce the Size of the Secretariat

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Oct. 24, 2009, 12:48 a.m. | Op-ed — by Taras Kuzio

Taras Kuzio

Special to Kyiv Post

Maybe the way to reduce the number of conspiracy theories emanating from the secretariat that contribute greatly to Ukraine’s political instability is for the secretariat be at least cut in half. The sensationalist claims emanating from the presidential secretariat these days have echoes of not only the darkest days of Viktor Medvedchuk’s rule of the presidential administrationbut also that of Soviet ideological tirades of the Brezhnevite era of stagnation.

I have yet to receive a single comment from anybody who believes in the spurious and without foundation claims of Yulia Tymoshenko’s alleged secret negotiations with Russia for support during the 2010 elections in exchange for her silence on the Georgian crisis. For one thing, the government’s special envoy on the crisis, Deputy Prime Minister Hrhoriy Nemirya, has been far more active than the Foreign Ministry both at home and abroad.

A strong supporter of Yushchenko called me a few days ago to wonder what was behind these bizarre claims against Tymoshenko of “treason”? This is already a warning sign that the secretariats campaign is only backfiring as its is harming (not improving) the presidents popularity in the orange heartland of western-central Ukraine.

The answer to dealing with such Soviet-style orchestrated campaigns is to remove the cancer. The problem has to lie in there being too many people employed by the presidential secretariat with too little to do sitting around smoking funny cigarettes that leads them to dream up bizarre conspiracies with little basis in reality.

When Yushchenko changed the presidential administration to a secretariat in his first year in office he promised to reduce it in size. In fact, it has grown and now numbers 600 people. Ukraine’s secretariat should have in fact declined in number as Ukraine moved from a presidential to a parliamentary constitution.

Compare this to the US where the president’s Executive Office - which incorporates the National Security Council (NSC) - has 1,800 staff. Ukraine’s secretariat of 600 staff does not include the large numbers of staff of the National Security and Defence Council (NRBO) that employs 260. This makes a grand total of 860 secretariat and NRBO employees in Ukraine.

The US has 6 times more population than Ukraine (300 compared to 48 millions). Based proportionately compared to Ukraine’s secretariat and NRBO (860), the US Executive Office should therefore have 5,200 staff when it in fact has only a third of that number (1,800).

This comparison also looks worse for Ukraine when we compare Ukraine’s and the US GDP which stand at $364 billion and $13 trillion respectively. The US GDP is therefore 39 times in size to Ukraine’s and yet it’s Executive Office is only 3 times larger than Ukraine’s secretariat.

Maybe the way to reduce the number of conspiracy theories emanating from the secretariat that contribute greatly to Ukraine’s political instability is for the secretariat be at least cut in half from 600 to 300 staff to make it proportionately similar to that of the US Executive Office’s 1,800 staff.

The savings from these cuts should be given to the Ukrainian military to increase the abysmal 1% of GDP currently spent on them. Such a step would be a true sign of President Yushchenko’s patriotism following Russia’s invasion of Georgia.
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