This week in Kyiv, the Ukrainian government sat down with business leaders and a range of international and Ukrainian policy experts brought together by the World Economic Forum to discuss what the scenarios for the country’s future development should be. This comes at a pivotal time for the former Soviet republic’s journey from communism to an independent nation, now embracing a European direction.
The road so far has often been rocky; when you sit at the crossroads, it can be challenging to decide which is the right road to take. Certainly, if you are going on a journey the first thing you need to agree on is your destination – a choice which the country is on the cusp of confirming. Once you know where are going, you need a roadmap, and the EU and its Association Agreement, with a valuable comprehensive free trade agreement , offers this.
The debate is sometimes presented as an east vs west argument, particularly by those outside of Ukraine, but this is too simplistic. Ukraine sits at the geographic crossroads between Europe and Eurasia and is a veteran trading nation with an open economy and great strengths in agriculture, minerals and steel, as well as a fast-emerging IT sector. As such, it needs to have strong relations and effective trade with Russia, the United States and China as well as with the European Union and beyond. Important as it is, EU integration alone will not be sufficient to secure the country’s optimum economic and social development.
Government and business in the country share the same goal – a strong and independent Ukraine which can deliver improved living standards for all its citizens. This requires continued upgrades to the legal and regulatory framework, to ensure clear rules of the game from which citizens, business and government can prosper. The Forum’s facilitated dialogue helps this process.
The two days of detailed discussion and debate, in which the President, Prime Minister and Cabinet members took a leading role, focused on the priorities for the nation’s development through to 2030. Key themes included the need for a level playing field to attract increased investment to Ukraine and help the country’s transformation to a vigorous European state; the importance of the government’s continuing reform agenda, and the need for Ukraine to be a leading trading nation with a multilateral trade policy in place with the European Union, Russia, China, the Middle East region and Ukraine’s Black Sea neighbours.
It’s too early to say what the final outcome of these discussions will be but we will not have to wait long. The Forum’s final report on the future scenarios for the nation’s development will be presented in Davos at the Annual Meeting in January next year.
One fact is certain – the development of a clear, long-term strategy for Ukraine’s economic growth and development, with the buy-in from government, investors and international institutions, will make a significant contribution to the growth of living standards of all Ukrainians.
Author: Jock Mendoza-Wilson is Director, International and Investor Relations, System Capital Management, Ukraine
Image: An aerial view shows downtown Lviv in western Ukraine, one of the host cities for the Euro 2012 soccer championship, June 22, 2011. REUTERS/Gleb Garanich