In an interview with UA-Times Grigol Katamadze president of the Association of Taxpayers of Ukraine, told us about The positive aspects of the “Turbo regime”, the draft laws that have been worked out after the three previous Level Up Ukraine business forums and the famous guests of the forum, which will be held on February 21,
– On Friday, Kyiv will host the Level Up Ukraine 2020 business forum. the forum will be held within the new political realities for Ukraine. What are the expectations from the event?
– Political life is actively developing in the country and this is very good – because you can’t stand without nothing to do.There are different estimates of what is happening, radically opposite estimates. But most importantly, we are not standing still.I think that in any successful country that came to success through reforms, they did not go without errors. Another question is if someone makes conscious mistakes. As far as I can see, the mistakes that are made after Volodymyr Zelensky came to power are mistakes, let us call them growth mistakes. This is normal.
For example, turboregime. Everyone lamented: how can laws be adopted in this mode. But let’s take a look at one second and recall situations when laws were not adopted for a long time, postponed and then, too, everyone grumbled. It is impossible to find a middle gold ground during the transition period. Sometimes you have to cut the paine, The most important success of all successfully reformed countries is when reformers came to power, they did their job in a short period of time.
Examples are often called Singapore, Poland, Slovakia, and Georgia. In all these countries, radical changes were made in the first 3-4 years. If this is not done in a short period of time, it will never be done. Because then comes the period of stagnation
Take the Slovak example. These are not my observations, these are the words of one of the participants in the reform process of Slovakia, Ivan Miklos, who was a strategic adviser to the previous government of Ukraine. When reforms began in Slovakia, the government drafted 200 bills. The parliament immediately adopted 199 laws. It was also a turbo mode. And we see the result, which Slovakia today is this small number one country per capita in the production of cars. How she achieved this, what she did for this – created attractive conditions for the global automotive giants to come with investments and create tens of thousands of jobs in the country.
When I give this kind of examples regarding Slovakia, Estonia or Georgia, there will always be people who say: “These are small countries. Even if they are combined, the size of this association will be smaller than Ukraine! ” The size of the country does not matter for its reform. It is much more difficult to do this in small countries.
I remember well when I returned to Georgia Kakha Bendukidze (Minister of Georgia for the Coordination of Economic Reforms 2004-2008 – UA-Times) when he joined the team of reformers and said these words: “You can sell everything except conscience.” Then he added: “And places of worship.” I remember what rallies were gathering near the Ministry of Economy, they literally spat on him. He endured it, withstood in order to achieve the goal and achieve the best for the country. Most importantly, in a short period of time, many positive things have been done that have yielded results. Some of these reforms yielded results after two years under that power, some give results today, when for 8 years this power has not existed in Georgia.
Each country goes its own way. And Ukraine is simultaneously reforming its own country in an attempt to restore state territorial integrity. Under such conditions, reform is very difficult, but necessary. A couple of years ago I was at the Polytechnical University “Igor Sikorsky Kyiv Polytechnical Institute”. I was amazed at the huge number of young people who create startups. There is a whole laboratory of startups that are taking abroad. In 2016, I was in Belarus and the IT sector is only developing there. The vast majority are ukrainians. I’m not talking about Silicon Valley or developed countries. Even in neighboring Belarus, where there is a very strong state machine, even there they created such conditions that ukrainian IT specialists close their laptops and go there. It is very important that we create conditions here so that people stay and develop business here.
– Level Up Forum has a long history. What the results of this?
– After the first forum, we held many meetings and round tables at which we presented the first draft of the liberal Tax Code, which we developed. We traveled around the country, met, consulted with business, scientists, and representatives of tax structures. I then said, referring to the tax authorities:“Friends, you don’t understand what it is to create a business in Ukraine. Until you touch it yourself you will not see in what difficult conditions it is necessary to do this, you will not understand that you can destroy a business in an instant. ” A business can be created for decades.and when you come and put your face on the asphalt, you will need it from there raise again.
All these years we have upheld the idea of creating a Financial Investigation Bureau. We are the Association of Taxpayers, a very large business community that has come together around a number of fundamental ideas.Then came the Ukrainian Business Council, which today unites 82 Associations. One of these ideas is the creation of a single structure for financial investigations. This was, incidentally, the election initiative of President Zelensky.
I remember well on September 2, when the president, meeting with the newly elected Verkhovna Rada and the government, set priorities and gave instructions on what legislative initiatives and laws should appear before December 2. Including the Law on the establishment of the Bureau of Financial Investigations. Last year we worked on it very actively, left comments on many pages of the bill. The absolute majority was taken into account. But at the last moment on January 13, suddenly the profile committee of the parliament decided to withdraw it from consideration altogether. 2.5 months experts, public organizations gathered, proved to each other their case, and then suddenly removed.
I am for all the uncharacteristic functions that law enforcement agencies have in the field of economics to be taken away and created a single analytical body. So that these methods are “face to asphalt”, the anachronism of the USSR in the form of the OBHSS (Department for Combating Thefts of Socialist Property – UA-Times) is a thing of the past, and no one else remembered about it. There should be an analytical body along with law enforcement functions. One without the other loses its meaning.
I hope that in February we will resume work in this direction and this will be one of those tools that will give an answer to many questions, including business will see the desire of the authorities to meet it.
– Probably, you can judge by the interest in Level Up Ukraine how much the issues raised here concern entrepreneurs, representatives of the authorities – how critical is the critical moment when the problems of business can no longer be ignored.
– In Ukraine there are a lot of forums. When we initiated the first Level Up Ukraine in 2016, it was then called “Level Up Ukraine. The battle for business: tax reform or chaos? ”, Already then we had a large audience. It so happened that all three years we held our event in November, and September-December in Ukraine almost every week there are some forums. Despite their abundance, increased attention was attracted to our Forum, and every year it went on increasing. In total, about three thousand people attended the three Forums. These are CEOs, owners of small, medium and large companies.
I am sure that I invite every graduate of a tax university to every Forum so that they can hear what the business is talking about. So that when they go to the appropriate authorities, they don’t think that the country starts from there, that life and business begin from their office. So they can see how the business lives, what problems it has, how it sees a way out of this situation. So that the tax authorities and business are a single organism that equally understands what is happening.
– What about “menu” of this Forum?
– I think this forum will turn out to be very interesting. Firstly, we want to gather all the leading leaders of the business community on one platform. Each of us defends some ideas. Let’s sit on one panel together with government representatives and determine what unites us. We are united by liberalization and changes in tax legislation. So let’s talk about it.
This year a lot of people involved in this forum. The president of the European Association of Taxpayers Rolf Baron von Hochenhau and the Secretary General of this organization Michael Jäger will be here. The President of the European Association will be the speaker of the first panel. The second investment panel will be moderated by Mr. Jäger. Our colleagues from the European Association of Taxpayers convinced the European Economic Senate, its president and active members, deputies of the European Parliament to participate in our Forum. Representatives of a number of funds from the United States, several serious players in the oil and gas industry in America will come.
They are interested in Ukraine from all points of view. Our European colleagues have convinced several very interesting investors from Germany, France, Italy and are taking them to the forum. They are interested in several areas. For example, infrastructure projects. Zelensky in Davos clearly indicated that the Ukrainian government will actively take steps to denationalize the part that is in the hands of the state. But, when we talk about the loss-making of these companies, I think that in this form, these companies will not take. These ones need to be prepared for privatization. They need to be wrapped in a good wrapper and so presented to investors.
A very important investment panel. And I am very grateful that Mr. David Arakhamia in whose person the political majority united, capable of independently making laws, and business, agreed to be one of the speakers of the investment panel. There will be people who are already investing and potential investors from the US and the EU. I think this is a good opportunity for everyone to explain to each other what mechanisms and opportunities need to be created in order for global bussuinsmen to come to Ukraine.
I will be sincere happy if, according to the results of 2020, Prime Minister Aleksey Honcharuk with cameras will drive along all 4,000 km of new roads that have not been patched in winter, which will need to be patched next winter, namely, new roads, as they announced. But I am afraid that this task is practically impossible — it will be very difficult to do this only through the efforts of Ukraine, without serious investors who are willing to invest in this.
– As we see, Zelensky’s team already have something to tell the Forum participants?
– Yes, the fact that the ice has broken is a little calming to me. The relevant legislation on concession has been adopted. The first concession projects are already there. This is the Kherson port and “Olbia” in Mykolaiv. Good players with experience and opportunities came here. The Qatari company Risoil-Kherson, which won in Kherson, is very interested in this project. The Government of Qatar is also interested in development; the Minister of Transport and Communications Jassim Saif Ahmed Al Sulaiti, even came to the presentation in Ukraine.
The first steps have been taken. Of course, again the Ukrainian court brought tar in his spoon of this process – stopped the process of concession of the Kherson port. But it’s very cool that the president immediately reacted, immediately said that here’s another demonstration,to put it mildly, inconsistencies in Ukrainian justice. I really hope that in the near future the process will be unblocked and active work will begin.
I listened at the presentation of the representative of AT RISOIL, Mr. Shota Hadzhishvili, who invested a lot in the South in the terminal for transshipment of sunflower, grain … He said that they entered the Kherson port to make a hub there and develop active shipping on the Dnieper. Moreover, year-round shipping. I remember when i was student, how Dnieper was .. And how it looks now, some yachts, boats of rich people … Not for this, the God gave Ukraine the Dnieper, so that not only for rich people to enjoy it.. This is the property of the entire Ukrainian people. And if they can realize this plan and the ambitions that investors in the Kherson port have, they will be able to win. And the state should help. After all, the president talked about an investment nanny in the case of investments of $ 100 million or more. It was nice to hear at this presentation the speech of the head of the regional administration of the Kherson region Yuri Gusev. He said that he was ready to be a “nanny” for the winners of this competition for the Kherson port concession and not only for all those who would come to the region.
Let Ukrainian small and medium-sized businesses rise from their knees. Let’s expand this segment and, when it is significant, we will forget even the word oligarch, because there will be so many self-sufficient people who value themselves and their families. And I think that one of the key points on the way to this goal is the Forum.
– What about the other surprises have prepared for guests?
– At this Forum there will be an infrastructure panel. Many business representatives are interested in this. And a panel on the ground, which is very relevant. And the educational panel on which we invited Mr. Betman from Sweden – the creator of the educational ecosystem within the national educational system of Sweden.
By the way, one of the main co-organizers and partners of our Forum is the Georgian Industrial Group, one of the participants in the Kherson port concession process, David Bezhuashvili.
Together with his brother Gela Bezhuashvili, who held high positions in the government of Georgia, for the last 8 years they have been engaged in cultural and educational projects. They have one of the successful comprehensive schools, which is called the European School of Georgia. I invited Gela Bezhuashvili to our educational site to tell how they made a successful educational project that has been working for 12 years. Graduates of this institution study in different higher educational institutions of the USA and Europe. My intuition suggests that, having actively entered the Ukrainian market, they will want to implement a similar educational project.
And before each Forum, I said that if at least one Ukrainian startup (since 2016, the avenue of Ukrainian startups – an integral part of Level Up) within the framework of the forum will find its investor – I will consider the Forum successful.
After the fruitful work, no matter how tired anyone is, I think no one will go away, because Nino Katamadze will perform concert . I know how much they love her in Ukraine and are always waiting for her.