in person

About transformation of Ukraine

19.09.2014 | By Rustem Khalilov

When Bohdan Hawrylyshyn shares his thoughts, he looks at his interlocutor so closely that it seems like he was able to look into your soul. We met in his Kyiv headquarters in Instytutska St. Hawrylyshyn says that he has a positive attitude to the idea of renaming the street in honor of the heroes of the Heavenly Hundred

This year he will be 88. During his long life the lumberjack emigrant from Canada had become a worldclass economist, a member of the Club of Rome and one of the founders of the Davos Economic Forum. Having made a name for himself outside his native country, Hawrylyshyn has always positioned himself as a Ukrainian. He spends on average two weeks a month in Kyiv because he feels that he can be useful to his country. Especially in these difficult times.


KW: For the next two years Ukraine is predicted to face a recession. How is it possible to mitigate it?

B.H.: In fact, it does not require that much. We have twentytwo different taxes this is madness. Such number is unnecessary. There could be five of them: payroll tax, property tax, valueadded tax. There could be taxes on financial transactions, for example. In addition, decentralization should be carried out as soon as possible I believe confederal association would suit Ukraine much better than the unitary system. Every community, every city, every region should have the right to tax its residents. The government should levy taxes on defense, foreign policy and its existence, and all other areas, such as social security or pensions, should be provided with taxes collected at the lowest level. It is necessary that the judicial system works fair and protects the right to private property. We should reduce the number of bureaucratic procedures for creation of businesses, especially small and medium enterprises. All this is necessary in order to create an attractive climate for domestic investments. People in Ukraine have money. If only we could reduce corruption more promptly It would have helped to attract foreign investment. Billions of dollars are hanging over us.

KW: At the parade on the Independence Day Poroshenko said that a military threat would always hover over Ukraine in the foreseeable future. Is it possible to rely on foreign investment in such circumstances?

B.H.: I dont think the military threat is hovering over the entire country. I do not think the planes will bomb Kyiv. Maybe the situation will not turn for better in Donetsk and Luhansk as quickly as expected. But, for example, what prevents the Poles from investing even more in our western regions? During the Orange Revolution the worlds attention was focused on us, and tens of billions of dollars were hanging over us. I believe investments will come and help our economy make some profits.

We still need a total transformation of the country. We have a huge economic potential and fantastically high quality of human capital. Believe me, I know what I am talking about. I would like to emphasize the quality of the younger generation. Among the older generation there are many good scientists and other professionals, but the experience of the Soviet Union has distorted something in them. They cannot think in modern categories.

I remember we were going to establish a company on the basis of the Institute of Cybernetics and develop software for export back in 1993. Representatives of Apple Computers visited Ukraine, studied the market and realized the potential of the Institute of Cybernetics. They suggested holding short seminars to teach people. They were convinced that in three years we would export software to the amount of US $5 bn. But that did not happen. For the Institute of Cybernetics the idea of doing something commercial, making money, seemed unacceptable. They always worked under the scheme: the government tells them what to do, and they did it. Meanwhile, in Indian Bengaluru experts were not afraid to try, and after a few years software exports from India reached US $15 bn.

Thinking about our economy we need to think about its structure. We do not need to restore or rebuild the destroyed parts of enterprises in Donetsk. We have to build something else. I had a very interesting meeting with a man and a woman from Donetsk. They created a coordinating center for all youth NGOs and work on things which shall be done in Donetsk in future. This is fantastic! Through such centralization we will have to give people a chance to work. This is very important.


Leonid Kravchuk, then chairman of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR, once asked Hawrylyshyn whether the distinguished economist would agree to be his advisor. Hawrylyshyn reckoned that was a bad idea. Kravchuk said: maybe because Hawrylyshyn would not like to be an advisor to a Communist? Maybe he was afraid of what people might say? Hawrylyshyn said that is was Kravchuk who could find himself in a precarious position if his counselor was a person, known as a nationalist and a patriot of Ukraine. It was in January 1991. Since that time Hawrylyshyn has been advisor to presidents of Ukraine, Verkhovna Rada speakers and prime ministers.

KW: What do you remember from communicating with Viktor Yanukovych?

B.H.: Yanukovych the governor of Donetsk oblast, Prime Minister Yanukovych and President Yanukovych were different people. As governor he did not allow any Russian investments in his region he wanted to be the master on his own land. As the premier, he openly admitted that he knew nothing and I believed that was a good thing. However, as president, Yanukovych has become a completely different person, in starch contrast to former self. He had two goals: absolute power and absolute wealth.

KW: You have been advisor to many prominent Ukrainian politicians. Have any representatives of the current government invited you to become their counselor?

B.H.: I have not received any offers yet, but if they did, I would not agree, even though I know Poroshenko for good fifteen years. I am ready to provide advice, but I am not prepared to be an advisor to the president or the prime minister.

KW: Election campaign started in Ukraine. The first convocation of the Verkhovna Rada was called romantic. Is it possible that romantic times return to the Rada?

B.H.: I remember the first convocation More than 25% of legislators were former political prisoners, writers, poets and dreamers. They were a statistical minority but they had two remarkable features: they were idealists and they had a clear objective a truly independent Ukraine, democratic and fair. The Communists felt ideologically bankrupt then so they voted for anything they were offered by the others.

The tragedy is that at the presidential election in 1991 instead of one candidate Chornovil we had seven candidates. Even such a wonderful person as [scientist and politician] Ihor Yukhnovskiy then approached me and said he was going to run for president. Why? What are you going to achieve? Who knows you? You will get half a percent of votes and this is in the best case. I believe it is my duty. Now imagine if there was one candidate instead of seven! Ukraine would be different. In addition, Chornovil himself made a huge mistake. Kravchuk suggested to him: let us work together, which deputy prime ministers and ministers would you like to have? And Chornovil replied no, we will remain in opposition. He was a lovely person, but, unfortunately, not a very wise politician. If he joined the coalition government, he could enter it with the idealists. Who, by the way, were very enlightened people, as many of them studied languages, economics and so on while being imprisoned in camps.

I believe romantic times could return to the Verkhovna Rada. Many people transformed over the year, it is part of our new nation, with its values, solidarity and sincere patriotism.

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