Saturday, June 15, 2024

Infrastructure Head Who Triggered Revolution of Dignity Resigns

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Mustafa Nayyem, Ukraine’s chairman of the State Agency for Restoration and Infrastructure Development, announced today on his Facebook page that he was resigning from his post. He said he made the decision “independently, due to systemic obstacles” that would not allow him to effectively exercise his powers.

Nayyem, 42, had served as a parliamentarian since 2014 and has been credited with triggering the Euromaidan protest in 2013. On Nov. 21 of that year, Nayyem posted on his Facebook page a call to gather on Kyiv’s “Maidan,” as Independence Square is known, in order to protest then-President Viktor Yanukovych’s decision to back out of an association agreement with the European Union. Within three months Viktor Yanukovych would flee Kyiv.

Nayyem, who was born in Afghanistan to a Ukrainian mother and Afghan father, moved to Kyiv when he was nine.

Months before the Maidan protests, Nayyem had been working as a journalist for the TVi channel. He left after a dispute and, as the protests gathered momentum in December 2013, helped in founding Hromadske TV, which played an important role in the Revolution of Dignity.

Nayyem became a parliamentarian in 2014. From Aug. 4, 2021, to Jan. 28, 2023 he served as Deputy Minister of Infrastructure in the administration of President Volodymyr Zelensky, before being appointed by the Cabinet of Ministers as head of the State Agency for Restoration and Infrastructure Development.


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In today’s Facebook announcement, Nayyem gave three reasons for resigning, elaborating at length on each one.

First, he pointed to budget cuts:

“Our budget for road restoration and maintenance projects was completely canceled. I am aware of the limitations of resources and the importance of military spending. But the cancelation of funds for infrastructure maintenance will inevitably affect, first of all, the condition of defense roads and, as a result, all military logistics. If this does not change, next season we will face complications in military logistics and export of products.”

Second, he mentioned “nightmare” bureaucratic issues, and gave examples of delays in paying contractors, which suggested ineptitude, if not outright corruption.

“All this has a negative impact on the country’s defense capability, cargo logistics, protection of critical infrastructure and export of our goods,” he said. “It is clear that sooner or later such actions would cause criticism of our team and dissatisfaction of international partners.”

The third reason was pay cuts of more than 30 percent, which he suggested was an attempt to undermine the Agency that had been receiving accolades from many Western investors.

“I believe that this was done deliberately so that the Agency, which to some extent became a model for building processes from zero, simply did not have any professional and motivated people left, and the Agency would itself be recognized as ineffective and unnecessary,”

Nayyem listed the achievements of the agency during his tenure, one of which was the construction of protective structures against drones and missiles at 22 distribution substations of Ukrenergo, the national power company, and the protection of 103 energy facilities from damage caused by bomb fragments. “Thanks to this, after the last bombardment, the power industry managed to restore electricity supply in the Kharkiv, Odesa and Mykolaiv regions in the shortest possible time.”

Yesterday Bloomberg wrote that a contributing cause may have been Nayyem’s exclusion from the June 11-12 Ukraine Recovery Conference conference in Berlin, Germany. “Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal blocked attendance” of Nayyem “and has yet to replace the infrastructure minister who was fired by parliament a month ago.”

Nayyem wrote an email to Bloomberg: “The prime minister personally rejected my request for this business trip to Berlin without giving reasons,” The prime minister’s office didn’t reply to Bloomberg for a request for comment after business hours.

Nayyem’s resignation comes in the wake of another high-profile sacking. On May 9 Zelensky’s team fired Oleksandr Kubrakov, the man who appointed Nayyem to his post.

Nayyem explicitly thanked Kubrakov: “I was appointed head of the Recovery Agency at the request of Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov, together with him we started work in the ministry, where I was his deputy for almost a year, and where we jointly initiated the restructuring and cleansing of the ministry and subordinate institutions from senseless bureaucracy and corruption. I am sincerely grateful to him for his trust.”

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