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1st Kyiv Post CEO Dinner guests talk about how business can help government

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Carlsberg Ukraine CEO Evgeniy Shevchenko shakes hands with Canadian Ambassador to Ukraine Roman Waschuk.

The Kyiv Post CEO Dinner, in partnership with Deloitte in Ukraine on April 27, discussed the question of what business can do to help the government in Ukraine transform for the better. The event took place at the Hilton Kyiv Hotel.

A three-question survey of participants beforehand showed optimism, with an overwhelming majority saying that positive changes will happen in the nation in the next year and also that they believe their businesses can help — chiefly by boosting economic growth, but also by contributing to transparency and the anti-corruption fight.

After months of political infighting and bickering, many participants expect to see the government take quick action in combatting corruption and in boldly institutionalizing reforms.

There appeared to be widespread agreement that Ukraine needs to do what it takes to restart International Monetary Fund lending, which stalled last August after $6.7 billion in low-interest loans, so that that the fragile economic recovery under way can solidify.

Like many discussions about Ukraine, installing the rule of law ranked high since Ukraine has never had credible, trusted or independent police, prosecutors and judges.

Discussion ensued on how to remove obstacles to economic growth, from eliminating oppressive or arbitrary tax inspections to improving the performance of state-run businesses or selling them off to the private sector altogether.

Business leaders say they will support government officials when attacked for doing the right things but will also be openly critical when they see public officials taking what they view as the wrong path.

The dinner took place on the eve of a gathering of business leaders with President Petro Poroshenko, Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman and other government leaders on April 28 in the Hyatt Kyiv Hotel.

After that meeting, Andy Hunder, president of the American Chamber of Commerce in Ukraine, presented requests from business leaders to government officials: “We envision five immediate steps towards strong and sustainable financial recovery for Ukraine:

• Sign the Memorandum of Understanding with the IMF, making way for the 3rd tranche disbursement by May 31;

• Allow repatriation of dividends by foreign investors and relax foreign currency control measures by July 31, 2016;

• Fix the date for the open and transparent privatization of the Odesa Portside Plant by July 31, 2016;

• Pass legislation to simplify tax legislation by fall 2016 to come into force on Jan. 1; and

• Pass legislation and implement measures to ban trading and distribution of illegally imported and counterfeit goods and services by Dec. 31.”

According to Poroshenko’s website, the president touted recent government measures to increase the prices charged for natural gas consumption to unified market rates as a powerful anti-corruption step.”

Poroshenko said that “everyone knows what was done with the difference in prices – fraud aimed at increasing the volume of consumption…dealers were earning money on that and politicians covered them,” his press service quoted him as saying.

Poroshenko also told the gathering that “our first priority is the restoration of economic growth and we have an opportunity to radically change the country for business to feel more comfortable. We will not resort to populism at the cost of the Ukrainian economy. Instead, we will make reforms that will ensure the creation of an efficient, attractive and comfortable investment climate.”

The 17 participants of the 1st Kyiv Post CEO Dinner on April 27 in the Hilton Kyiv Hotel included:

Roman Waschuk, Canadian ambassador to Ukraine;

Volodymyr Omelyan, infrastructure minister of Ukraine;

Oleksandr Danylyuk, finance minister of Ukraine;

Hanna Hopko, independent member of parliament;

Dincer Sayici, Turkish Airlines general manager in Ukraine;

Martin Shuldt, Cargill general director in Ukraine;

Evgeniy Shevchenko, Carlsberg Ukraine chief executive officer;

Josef Graf, Porsche Ukraine managing director;

Mark Rollins, Ukrnafta chairman of the executive board;

Steven Fisher, CITI CEO and chairman of the board;

Viktor Shevchenko, Zammler Ukraine general manager;

Victoria Voytsitska, member of parliament with Samopomich Party;

Andriy Bulakh, Deloitte managing partner and event moderator;

Greg Fishman, Deloitte senior investment adviser;

Viktoria Chornovol, Deloitte partner;

Brian Bonner, Kyiv Post chief editor; and

Alyona Nevmerzhytska, Kyiv Post acting chief executive officer.

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