The war has made Kyiv's problems more visible: "Voice" faction leader Hryhoriy Malenko on conflicts in the city council, paving, and war budget
Despite citizens being more irritated by the salaries of city top managers than by the worn infrastructure and poor quality public transport, the deputy says.
In Kyiv, the state of major infrastructure objects continues to deteriorate, while authorities spend budget funds on repaving. Although the Kyiv City Council, amidst scandal, did adopt the capital's budget for 2024, the city's systemic problems are only deepening. "Telegraph" asked Hryhoriy Malenko, the head of the "Voice" faction, about the threat of underfunding, spending on transport solutions, and some reasons for political turbulence in the Kyiv City Council.
The 2024 Kyiv budget is expected to be deficit (expenditures - UAH 85.3 billion, revenues - UAH 72.6 billion). How do you plan to mitigate this difference, and does it mean that some city programs will be cut?
War has formed entirely different requirements. In unpredictable conditions, the city's budget planning becomes more flexible than before the full-scale invasion. We need to anticipate various force majeure events that were unimaginable before the implementation of martial law. For instance, in case of infrastructure damage by the enemy, we must have reserves for quick restoration. Moreover, the deficit of the 2024 budget was influenced by the loss of the "military" personal income tax. While the 2023 budget was also deficit.
Fortunately, Kyiv residents can be assured: the city has enough funds for the salaries of municipal workers and the functioning of infrastructure. A surplus of UAH 8.6 billion is planned for the general fund. In 2023, the surplus was larger - UAH 13 billion. However, there is a deficit of UAH 21.3 billion in the special fund.
Regarding the financing of the deficit or its reduction. First - we hope that part of the expenses will not occur thanks to our heroic air defense. Second - the city has a reserve to reduce expenses, and we can abandon some infrastructure projects. Third - if necessary, there are mechanisms for borrowing from international financial organizations for the city and subsidies from the state budget.
How much will the city budget lose after the decision of the Verkhovna Rada to redirect the military personal income tax to the state budget?
It's impossible to state the exact amount, but according to some experts, the income from the "military" personal income tax in the Kyiv budget for six months of 2023 was almost UAH 3 billion. Considering that the funds stopped coming from October 1, 2023, the city lost no less than UAH 1.5 billion last year and will lose about UAH 6 billion this year. Almost 10% of planned revenues.
The 2024 budget again allocates funds for some infrastructure projects (metro to Vynohradar, Podilskyi Bridge, interchanges, etc.). Are they necessary for Kyiv during the war? Will they be repaving sidewalks again instead of financing other more important expenditure items?
I would separate investments in major infrastructure projects and paving. The former, if the city can afford it, are appropriate. The latter - no. In my opinion, we must continue to develop and maintain the city's infrastructure. Maintaining transport infrastructure is not a whim but a real need. Because quality transport infrastructure, in addition to traffic safety and convenience for Kyiv residents, stimulates the economy.
In addition, not all works can be stopped and frozen due to their specifics. Stopping construction will still require additional funds for the conservation of the object, and after resuming work, their cost may significantly increase due to the replacement of certain parts of the object.
How would you characterize the city's budget for this year: a development budget, survival, degradation?
I would call it a budget of the capital of a warring country that is trying to balance between ensuring the survival and development of the city. Unfortunately, recently the issue of Kyiv's 2024 budget has become highly politicized, attracting maximum attention. In my opinion - this is good. Because the more interest, the more people will be interested in what the main financial document of the city is and how it works.
In addition, during the year, we will still review the budget, including in the direction of increasing support for the Armed Forces of Ukraine. If the city passes the winter relatively calmly, we will be able to allocate additional funds to the army.
About the fight against the Opposition Platform - For Life and the reformatting of the majority in the Kyiv City Council
Let's move on to political issues. The voting in the Kyiv City Council on deputies from the Opposition Platform - For Life regarding the deprivation of their mandates revealed several interesting points: it was not possible to annul the deputies' powers in these elected officials. Some political forces did not support such lustration. Why and what will be the consequences (will the majority in the Kyiv City Council strengthen due to the votes of former members of the Opposition Platform - For Life)?
Unfortunately, at least for now, there are not enough votes for this. Who, how, and why votes should be asked directly from the deputies themselves who do not support this decision. Our faction voted "for". And most members of "Voice" were co-authors of this draft decision.
Regarding the consequences, they will be purely political. I think Kyiv residents should remember who did not vote and did not support the decision on the Opposition Platform - For Life in the elections.
Is it possible to reformat the Kyiv City Council (create a new majority), and under what conditions will this happen?
There is currently no stable majority in the Kyiv City Council. The city council deals more with economic and applied issues than political ones. Although, of course, they sometimes appear. In economic issues, coalitions are formed situationally. I do not think that anything will fundamentally change in this sense until the end of the term.
Last year, Taiwan promised $1 million for generators for Kyiv. How are they being used?
Yes, Taiwan always fulfills its obligations. For which both the city of Kyiv and the state of Ukraine must thank the people of Taiwan. All generators purchased under financial support have been transferred to the municipal enterprise "Kyivteploenergo", which distributed them among the energy nodes of the city as quickly and efficiently as possible. These are powerful industrial generators with an average capacity of over 500 kW. All of them are currently working and making Kyiv's energy infrastructure more resilient.
How do you generally assess the city's readiness for blackouts?
I rate it as "good". There are always opportunities for growth, but considering the risks we have due to the actions of the Russians, our energy workers have done a good job. I can only thank the people who work around the clock to ensure we have light and heat.
About the biggest problems of the capital
Name the three main problems of the capital and ways to solve them?
The full-scale war has significantly changed the context of perception of the city's problems. More precisely, it made fundamental problems more noticeable. The first is the safety of Kyiv residents in all the variety of this word. The second is the efficiency of management and the use of budget funds. The third is the state of fundamental infrastructure, which is very worn out - networks, heating, transport infrastructure.
All these problems are not political, so their resolution and discussion, unfortunately, receive less attention than necessary. In addition, to renew networks and on any other large infrastructure projects, it is necessary to involve international financial institutions and gradually, methodically, and constantly replace worn-out nodes.
Regarding security, let's focus on external threats. For example, the issue of shelters. To equip more shelters, it is necessary to work with responsible business and, for example, Homeowners' Associations. Without adequate communication and cooperation with the community, the city will not be able to provide everyone with quality shelters.
Regarding the effectiveness of the use of budget funds. I see no other mechanism than the market one. And in all aspects. From the selection of personnel for managerial positions in city management to reducing the share of municipal enterprises and replacing service providers with private companies. Unfortunately, this issue is almost impossible to resolve at the city level. It requires a general reform of the civil service.
About the salaries of deputies and officials
Another most discussed in society issue concerns the salaries of deputies and top managers. How to solve the dilemma between the fact that deputies should be honest and not earn a lot to not irritate the population?
For me, this question is obvious. High, market salaries do not guarantee the absence of corruption, but low non-market ones definitely lead to incompetence or corruption. Therefore, in my opinion, it is better to let the population be irritated by the large salaries of city top managers than by worn networks, poor public transport, and the absence of a quality living space around. It is impossible to pay teachers and doctors pennies and expect quality medicine and education. The same works with quality city management.
Gregory Malenko. Photo by Yevhen Loyuk.