Without reservation, Valeria Gontareva is the finest central bank governor in the nation’s history. But if reports are true that she wants out by summer, she’d be the first one to admit that the nation hasn’t done everything it needs to do to clean up the corrupt banking sector and make sure it stays clean.
Much of the blame for the National Bank of Ukraine’s shortcomings, however, also rest with the broken-by-design criminal justice system. This means the fault lies squarely with President Petro Poroshenko, who clings to the authoritarian/Soviet impulse that he as the top elected official decides who goes to jail and who doesn’t. He controls the events through his appointment of the general prosecutor, currently the useless Yuriy Lutsenko, and by delaying reform that would rid the nation of its 7,000 useless and corrupt judges.
Gontareva and the central bank have made great strides in closing half the nation’s banks, most of them used for insider embezzlement schemes, and for bringing a measure of transparency to ownership and financial statements.
But that’s pretty much where the success ends. Those who defaulted on multimillion-dollar loans are still walking the streets of Ukraine (and halls of parliament), protected by political patronage and banking secrecy.
Not a single case of bank fraud has been prosecuted in Ukraine, despite losses that will top $20 billion – 20 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product! – once the losses of billionaire Ihor Kolomoisky’s now state-owned PrivatBank are factored in.The biggest future danger is that Poroshenko will replace Gontareva with another of his loyalist political hacks, who will proceed to reverse the limited progress made by the admirable team that Gontareva has led for the last three years.