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  January 6th, 2017 | Written by

USAID Ends Funding for Ukraine Customs Reform

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  • USAID supported Ukraine's government to fight corruption and bolster the economy.
  • Former head of Odessa customs said reforms lacked political will.
  • Entrenched officials with vested interests blocked any changes to Odessa customs.

The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has ended funding for a customs reform project in the Odessa region of Ukraine

USAID and other institutions supported Ukraine’s government, which took power after the 2014 protests, to fight corruption and bolster an economy battered by an ongoing separatist war. But apparently the government’s effort to take on corruption at its Black Sea ports have stalled.

A young activist with no prior civil service experience, appointed to head Odessa customs in 2015, quit last November, saying her reforms were not backed politically.

Governor of Odessa Mikheil Saakashvili, former president of Georgia and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko pointed fingers at each other as to who was to blame to the reform failures.

The USAID project met with some initial success, as a single window customs clearance system was introduced, which received positive feedback from businesses. But a report from Reuters indicates that entrenched officials with vested interests in maintaining the status quo blocked any further changes, such as the attempt to remove corrupt officials from their jobs.

Meanwhile the head of Ukraine’s Fiscal Service told Reuters that the former customs chief, Yulia Marushevska, was under investigation for deliberately undervaluing cargo. Marushevska said on Facebook the allegations were politically motivated.