Zelensky’s Government Reshuffle in Ukraine Could Put Reforms at Risk

Zelensky’s Government Reshuffle in Ukraine Could Put Reforms at Risk
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy addresses lawmakers during a parliamentary session in Kyiv, Ukraine, March 4, 2020 (Sputnik photo via AP Images).

In the most sweeping reshuffle of his government since he took office last May, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky fired his Cabinet and appointed a new prime minister earlier this month. The announcement comes at a tricky time, as the government is considering several reform measures that are seen as important to winning much-needed investor confidence. In an email interview with WPR, Steven Pifer, a nonresident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, discusses the factors behind Zelensky’s move and why the new Cabinet will need to work hard to prove it can bring about real change in Ukraine.

World Politics Review: Why has Zelensky chosen to reshuffle his government at this time?

Steven Pifer: Zelensky explained the Cabinet reshuffle that took place earlier this month as necessary to “react to the Cabinet’s effectiveness”—or what he saw as its ineffectiveness. The previous Cabinet, led by Prime Minister Oleksiy Honcharuk, lasted just over six months, and while some of its ministers lacked experience, it was widely viewed as pro-reform and honest. It received generally positive marks, even if it had much to do to achieve its goals, including Honcharuk’s ambitious aim of raising Ukraine’s GDP growth rate to between 6 and 7 percent, from 3.3 percent in 2018.

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