Ambassador Yovanovitch’s Remarks at Citi Strategic Investment Forum

November 9, 2016

Good afternoon (Дóброго дня всім)! It is a great pleasure to join you today (Я дýже рáда бýти тут сьогóдні).

Thank you for the introduction and for setting the stage so well.

Also, let me briefly thank Citibank Ukraine and Steve Fisher for the hard work that went into organizing this forum.

As many of you know, Steve wears two hats – not only as CEO of Citibank Ukraine, but also as Chair of the Board of AmCham, so I applaud his dedication to the business community here in Ukraine.

Let me also highlight that we are proud to have Citibank in Ukraine for the past 18 years, as a model of American business and example of best-world practices.

Today, we are discussing critical factors for success moving forward in 2017, and I know that some of you may be interested in how the recent U.S. elections may impact this topic.

However, I am not here today to talk about the U.S. elections, because regardless of who is in the White House, we have a proven history of supporting a strong bilateral partnership with Ukraine over the past 25 years of its independence.

And today the focus is, and should be, on Ukraine.

As many of you know, my connection to Ukraine extends beyond my recent appointment as Ambassador.

I lived and worked here from 2001 to 2004, during a time when the United States and Ukraine were in an earlier stage of forging our bilateral partnership.

Fifteen years later, I would be remiss to not mention the progress I have seen since my first tour here.

That progress has been fueled by the Ukrainian people, ordinary people, who are a true inspiration.

Ordinary people who are now more engaged in civil society.

Ordinary people who demand more access to news and information.

Ordinary people who are working as reformers in society and across the government.

Fifteen years ago, I never imagined that the next generation of Ukrainians would be shaping a new society while also demanding a more transparent, fair, and accountable government.

Looking forward, Ukraine’s success depends on the government’s ability to deliver to its people.

In many areas, the government is doing just that, and consequently laying the foundation for continued success in 2017 and beyond.

We have seen commendable progress in consolidating and cleaning up the banking sector, as well as the difficult task of stabilizing the macro economy and implementing macro-economic reforms under the leadership of NBU Governor Valeriya Hontareva.

We also applaud the successful reforms spearheaded by Prime Minister Groysman and Finance Minister Danylyuk , including increasing gas tariffs to full cost recovery, eliminating a subsidy to Naftogaz that used to be seven percent of Ukraine’s GDP, and passing key energy-related legislation

We hope this momentum continues, including passage of the Electricity Market Law, which is essential for further reform and privatization in the energy sector.

On the anti-corruption front, both the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine and the Specialized Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office have made significant strides in the relatively short time since each has been operational.

For instance, NABU has launched 250 cases into high-level public sector corruption its 9 months, and more than 10% of those cases are already before the courts.

In a significant step toward increasing transparency, over electronic asset declarations were filed in the system by the October 31 deadline, and we commend the Ukrainian government on this milestone.

Importantly, we also see great strides in the legislative progress of corporate governance at Ukraine’s state owned enterprises, the increasing use of E-procurement, and the recent amendments to strengthen judicial independence and integrity.

As we saw in September, these and other reform efforts led to the IMF’s decision to move forward with the third tranche of its assistance, and the United States also signed and dispersed a third one billion dollar loan guarantee.

These disbursements signal to international investors that Ukraine is making progress and working to fulfill its commitments.

But, there are still areas where the government can do better for its people, and in turn give more confidence to investors.

Notably, access to finance and continued strengthening of the banking industry remain top priorities.

According to the World Economic Forum’s 2015-2016 Global Competitiveness Report, businesses rank access to finance as a serious obstacle to doing business in Ukraine – second only to corruption. The same report ranks the soundness of Ukraine’s banks last among 140 economies analyzed.

And on the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness index, Ukraine ranks 85 out of 138 countries, which further emphasizes that the government must be relentless in moving forward with reforms if it hopes to attract the major investment this country needs.

More consistent tax regulation, regular and predictable VAT reimbursements, and further relaxation of currency restrictions would help to attract additional foreign investment.

Now is not the time to sit back and enjoy the progress to date.

Instead, now is the time to build on this progress and push forward with additional reforms – proving to the world that Ukraine is worthy of investment, and proving to the Ukrainian people that their voices are being heard.

In closing, only a sustained, long-term, commitment to reform will make Ukraine a major destination for foreign direct investment.

Ukraine has the raw resources to attract investment – from its rich agricultural lands and access to ports, to its highly educated population that, among other things, hosts an impressive IT sector.

The people of Ukraine deserve a chance at being competitive in the global economy, and with continued reform commitment from their government, Ukrainians are well on their way to achieving this in the years to come.

Thank you all once again for the opportunity to be here with you today.

Дýже дякую. Слáва Україні! (Response: Герóям слáва!)