Watch Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s appearance on Jan. 22 at the World Economic Forum in Davos.

President Volodymyr Zelensky said Ukraine has ambitions to become a regional leader and called on business to invest in the country’s economy in his speech at 20th World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, on Jan. 22.

He said Ukraine is the right place for investment thanks to its well-positioned location, inexpensive and well-educated human capital. He talked about the government’s efforts to improve the investment climate.

Ukraine has not succeeded in attracting more than $50 billion in foreign direct investment since independence in 1991, with corruption mainly to blame, but has been trying to improve its image since at least the EuroMaidan Revolution that ousted Kremlin-backed Viktor Yanukovych in 2014. The current amount of FDI is small for a nation of 42 million people.


“We propose all of you to be the shareholders of the success of new Ukraine,” Zelensky said. 

He added that those who miss the opportunity to invest in Ukraine now will feel like George Bell, CEO of Excite, an internet company, who rejected an offer to buy Google for $1 million in 1999. 

Zelensky joked that “Ukraine is speeding up the climate change,” clarifying that he means the positive change of the business climate.

Zelensky also said that, after Russia seized Crimea and launched its ongoing war against his country in 2014, Ukraine needs to move faster than ever to develop its economy. It’s a matter of the nation’s survival, he said.

“What is a task for the one who lost a portion of the territory? I will answer — to be a leader of Eastern and Central Europe,” he said. 

When answering the questions of Professor Klaus Schwab, founder and executive chairman of the World Economic Forum, about the prospects of ending Russia’s war against Ukraine, Zelensky said Ukraine’s government is “ready to stop it today.” 

But the solution to the conflict in eastern Ukraine, which has killed 14,000 people, depends on the other side, he added.


When asked to name three main reasons why Ukraine is lucrative for investment now, Zelensky said that the Ukrainian government offers guarantees to protect big investors and will give those who buy state-owned firms a five-year corporate tax break. 

He also said that about 500 state-owned companies are said to be sold off and that the sale and purchase of farmland will also be market-driven soon. He also said that people in Ukraine are very talented and “cheaper than in Europe.”

Specifically, he outlined a proposal for a government “investment nanny” to look after big investors.

“We have more than three strengths and examples of things we’re happy to discuss with Western investors, not just warm words,” Zelensky said in response to Schwab’s question.

“Please come and we’ll defend your investment. We offer an ‘investment nanny’ for those investing $100 million-plus that will include a separate contract with the state. A manager speaking five languages and available 24/7 will answer any question. You will be in direct touch with the manager and have no problem whatsoever.


Secondly, for all ready to join large-scale privatization, for today it will be 500 enterprises ready to be privatized in the next two years; those who will participate with $10 million, we will ensure the tax break and tax holidays for corporate income tax for five years,” he said.

When being asked what the European Union could do to help Ukraine in achieving its goals, Zelensky said that the EU should accept Ukraine as its member. But there should be fair terms, he believes.

“This is not about when we will be in the European Union but what status Ukraine will be granted in the European Union. What will the attitude be to our country? The attitude as to the powerful player, the equal player, which is respected, which is not looked down at..,” he said.

Zelensky joked that the ongoing leave of the United Kingdom from the EU is the good timing to accept Ukraine there. “We know that one big country made an exit from the European Union. Maybe this is for Ukraine a time to enter,” he said.

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