Changing perceptions about Ukraine with local and foreign investors will be among the key goals for Daniel Bilak, the newly appointed chief investment advisor to Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman and director of the Ukraine Investment Promotion Office.
It’s a year-long assignment for Bilak, a prominent lawyer from Canada who stepped into his role on Nov. 1.
His aim is to rebrand the country and improve conditions for doing business through a number of initiatives, including expediting the passage of more than a dozen laws to improve the business climate. Currently, they are stuck in the Verkhovna Rada. He backed a proposal to merge them together into one package, which he wants to put forward to the business community.
“Maybe we can improve something…that would make it more difficult for the deputies to say ‘we don’t want this law’ because there will be more pressure put on them,” he said.
Ukraine ranks nowhere near the top of nations in foreign direct investment, ease of doing business or per-capita income, and investors cite three primary reasons: global instability (to which Russia’s war has contributed), lack of rule of law and pervasive corruption.
Bilak fielded questions from around a dozen investors during a roundtable meeting in Kyiv on Nov. 15 sponsored by the U.S.-Ukraine Business Council and hosted at the offices of KPMG.
Bilak said he knew the job would be tough, but changes in the global political climate over the past week- including the U.S., Moldova and Bulgarian elections — will make it even harder.
Following the Kremlin-friendly Donald Trump’s victory in the U.S. presidential election on Nov. 8, Moldova and Bulgaria also elected pro-Russian politicians in November.
Bilak said the U.S. was a critical partner and Ukraine would need to secure anchor investments from the states in key four sectors — infrastructure, energy, agribusiness and high tech.
Meanwhile, he said, Japanese companies have shown interest in investing in Ukraine, with automobile parts maker Fujikura among those announcing plans to launch in Western Ukraine this year.
“They actually have no problems, they’re very happy people right now and I think we want to understand what have those regions done that make them so happy,” he said. “That’s another area of focus for us, to create cities, or, regions of excellence that are going to create the environment that will attract investment.”