Prime Minister of Ukraine V.Groysman for "Wall Street Journal": Positive Change Is Happening in Ukraine
We’re ahead of schedule on deregulating energy and fighting corruption, and are growing as a result.
Achieving positive change in a country is no easy feat. It requires ambition, dedication and persistence. I see this every day as Ukraine introduces wide-ranging reforms to make our country a better place to live, visit and invest. But now that we are at the stage where persistence is essential to realizing our goals, I want to share our progress while showing our commitment to carrying out these changes.
When I became prime minister in April 2016, the government’s main challenge was to stabilize our country. We had to establish new rules and greater transparency to fight corruption and create a business-friendly climate. We’ve been working hard, and over the past three years we’ve canceled more than 3,000 regulatory acts—more than during the entire previous 20 years.
Now that we have the momentum, the numbers are stacking up, too. After a 17% drop in 2014-15, Ukraine’s gross domestic product grew by 2.3% in 2016, accelerating to 4.7% in the final quarter. A report published by the European Commission last year concluded that we’re making headway at an “unprecedented” level, and the International Monetary Fund has committed $17 billion in financial support for my government’s reform efforts.
It’s never been easy, but we’ve insisted on being open and transparent throughout. Under previous rules, subsidized energy prices cost the government around 10% of GDP each year and offered politically connected oligarchs the chance to siphon off billions into their own pockets. That’s why my government deregulated gas prices and substituted energy-tariff subsidies with direct subsidies to households.
We implemented these changes a year earlier than our IMF program stipulated. Indeed, we are trying to outpace the international standards for transparency. Last summer, for example, we made it obligatory for state bodies and civil servants to purchase goods and services through an award-winning e-procurement system called Prozorro, developed by Transparency International. This new system automatically publishes details of public spending on an open e-register so that businesses, citizens and investors can be confident that the government is working to support their needs and enable further development.
We are proud of our achievements so far, and have identified five priorities in our 2020 Reform Plan: economic growth to create new jobs, higher wages and increased personal wealth; effective governance, aimed at high-quality public services and better control over state funds; combating corruption in order to secure equal rights for all; increasing our security and defense services to protect our citizens; and increasing the availability and quality of health care across the country.
Driving these reforms will push us into an exciting new period in our nation’s history, allowing us to open up for global business. We are a member of the World Trade Organization, have a free-trade and visa-free travel arrangement with the European Union, and have recently concluded a free-trade agreement with Canada.
We’ve also created the Ukraine Investment Promotion Office to attract even more foreign investment, as well as continually improving our infrastructure and legislation to match the high standards of our highly skilled workforce. A recent European Business Association Investment Attractiveness Index characterized Ukraine’s investment environment as the best it’s been in six years. Foreign direct investment last year totalled $4.41 billion, 17.1% more than in 2015.
Ukraine has a bright future, and I’m sure this future will be based on further cooperation with our international partners. I will do everything in my power to make this happen, and the Ukraine Reform Conference meeting in London Thursday will be the first of many opportunities to broaden the coalition around reforms in Ukraine.
We have a vision for making sure progress turns into further reform. Our persistence will be the key to making sure Ukraine continues to give our people a brighter future, our allies a stronger partner and our investors more valuable opportunities.
Mr. Groysman is the prime minister of Ukraine.