AMBASSADOR'S BLOG - INVEST IN UKRAINE?

20.05.10




What contrasts.  Last year, when I flew into London for the 5th Ukrainian Investment Summit, a) I'd never heard of a volcano called Eyjafjallajökull; and b) investors at the conference were thin on the ground.  When people asked me whether it was wise to invest in Ukraine, I'd say there were big opportunities, but conditions were tough.

Fast forward twelve months.  Despite the latest volcanic ash cloud making London a dicey destination, when I and the Ukrainian ambassador to London, Ihor Kharchenko, open the 6th Ukrainian Investment Summit on Monday at the Marriott Grosvenor Square, the audience is distinguished both by its size and its quality.  The presence of Iryna Akimova, First Deputy Head of the Presidential Administration, demonstrates the commitment of the authorities in Kyiv to attracting foreign investment.  The financial sector is represented by a host of London- and Kyiv-based fund managers, analysts, bankers and others looking for profitable homes for the wall of money waiting to settle in Ukraine once the business environment is right.  

The attendance at the conference and the strong pro-reform messages from senior Ukrainian speakers show the immense potential for attracting foreign investment to Ukraine.  Conversely, one highly regarded speaker points out that Ukraine came in at place 142 out of 183 countries in the authoritative World Bank Ease of Doing Business rankings covering the period June 2008 to May 2009.  

I've blogged several times about the need to improve the business environment here, including in December on the specific problem of corruption.  Since February the Ukrainian Presidential Administration and Government have made a series of strong statements about their wish to bring about deregulation, introduce deep-seated reform, tackle VAT refund arrears and create the kind of predictable business climate which will encourage foreign investment.  Foreign investors are eagerly anticipating evidence of a  "success"  story which will be a clear indication that the government is serious about attracting foreign investment.   Many firms are certainly scenting an opportunity .  On the oil and gas front, for example, I've had meetings in the last month with representatives of several of the world's largest energy companies, as well as some smaller players, all keen to explore Ukraine's potential.  

Over the next couple of months, the Ukrainian government plans to introduce a series of key measures designed to take forward the process of economic reform, including a new public procurement law and measures to tackle VAT refunds.  Some of these steps are linked to Ukraine's planned IMF programme and the EU Association Agreement.  Others are designed independently to show Ukraine is open for business.  The quality of these measures will be a key indicator of whether we still have to warn would-be investors that the business climate here is challenging; or whether we can say without reservation that now the time really is right to invest in Ukraine.   

PS The British Embassy in Kyiv would be delighted to hear from any British companies thinking of exporting to or investing in Ukraine who would like help or advice.  Please contact Victoria.Burachenko@fco.gov.uk in our commercial team in the first instance.

Leigh Turner
British Ambassador to Ukraine

NOTE:  You can read all of Ambassador Turner's blogs by visiting: http://blogs.fco.gov/roller/turner



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