Gaidar wants Odesa to be success story
– Maria Gaidar’s father, once the prime minister of Russia, dreamed of his country becoming a European-style democracy governed by the rule of law.
Over 20 years later, that dream is in tatters. Russia’s liberal reforms of the 1990s, which were spearheaded by Yegor Gaidar, who died in 2009, have mostly been reversed by President Vladimir Putin’s authoritarian regime. But his daughter has now found herself at the cutting edge of a movement to turn Ukraine into the kind of country that Russia has failed to become.
“I’m continuing Yegor Gaidar’s cause in the sense that I’m committed to reforms and improving people’s lives, even if it’s difficult and unpopular,” Gaidar, also the great-granddaughter of Soviet writer Arkady Gaidar, said in an interview with the Kyiv Post.
Since being appointed as an aide to Odesa Oblast Governor Mikheil Saakashvili in July, Gaidar has overseen efforts to make social services in the region more user-friendly, transparent and corruption-free.
But the nation still lacks a nationwide roadmap to improve social services, including health care, according to Gaidar. Every report from foreign organizations says that “health care reform in Ukraine has not even started,” Gaidar said.
Health Minister Alexander Kvitashvili’s reform envisages transferring drug purchases to international organizations, switching from funding based on the number of beds to financing based on the amount of services provided, and introducing electronic procurement.
In July, Kvitashvili offered to resign after being criticized for moving slowly on the plan, though he in turn blamed the delays on parliament. However, his resignation has yet to be approved.
Gaidar said that the measures included some necessary technical solutions but lacked a strategy for the future and a vision for how the healthcare system will look like.
“I think it’s quite dangerous not to answer these questions at the beginning,” Gaidar said. “You can become hostage to technical solutions that would lead you to something that people don’t want. I don’t see where the health care system is going.”
This contrasts with Russia, where a national health care model has been already chosen, Gaidar said. “There is a consensus there that they’re building a universal health insurance model,” she said.
Gaidar was a deputy governor of Russia’s Kirov Oblast in 2009-2011 and an adviser to a Moscow deputy mayor in 2012-2013. She was in charge of social sector reform in both capacities. She has studied at Russian universities and at Harvard, and until recently was a Russian opposition leader and critic of President Vladimir Putin.
Gaidar is proud of her work in Kirov Oblast, saying it had turned from one of the most backward regions in Russia in terms of social services into one of the most advanced ones in 2009-2011.
Russia has mostly scrapped the Soviet funding system on which Ukraine’s still is based in favor of one based on the amount of services, according to Gaidar.
Another difference is that Ukraine spends very little on pharmaceuticals, with patients having to pay for drugs themselves.
But the upside in Ukraine is that there is demand for change, as opposed to Russia, where “most people want the return of the Soviet Union,” she said.
“Here, people are more ready for change and want this change, and they say ‘give us an opportunity, remove obstacles, and we’ll do everything ourselves,’” Gaidar added. “In Russia people believe in paternalism and think that the state should take care of everyone.”
She said that the government “must become a conduit for people’s wishes, open doors for them, and remove barriers.”
But Ukrainian social services are non-transparent and chaotic, Gaidar said.
“Nobody can say what kind of free services the state should provide, where you can get these services, and how they should be funded,”
Former Russian opposition leader Maria Gaidar, now an aide to Odesa Governor Mikheil Saakashvili, joins a human chain wearing vyshyvankas, traditional Ukrainian embroidered clothing, on Ukrainian Independence Day in Odesa on Aug. 24. (UNIAN)