Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Getting Things Done in Ukraine, Not

Why is Ukraine stuck in idle when it should be on its way to being an economic dynamo (IMHO)? I won't try to answer that but here is an example of the way things work.

I have had the opportunity to work closely with the Oblast (similar to
a US state) government and its pursuit for economic development. In
that time, there has been one wildly heralded local election (with live
satellite coverage [a first in Ukraine!], street fairs and a huge
concert featuring one of the most popular singers in the country), one
wildly heralded 3 day student conference (free beer and bbq for
students and a concert by one of the most popular singers in the
country) and yet another street concert by yet some of the more popular
musical acts in the country. The concerts I describe use full sized
and equipped stages with all the smoke and lights that any respectable
eastern European rock star would demand.

These are great. Great opportunity to show the people that the
government cares about them. Great opportunity to pass out free balloons and informative
materials concerning a wide range of issues. Great opportunity to
bring together students from across Ukraine and teach them that they
are all, in their hearts, the same.

Great. I'm all for that.

The Oblast government has made exports and foreign investments its top

Great. The Oblast desperately needs such development.

Since I work with the government, I have contacts with people
immediately connected with the Governor. In the flurry of activity and
excitement of a new beginning, I went to the Oblast website to see how
potential investors or import/exporters would get information. The
site is in Ukrainian with no English translation. Since most foreign investors/businesses will more likely speak English than Ukrainian, I thought it important to create a mirror site in English. My offer to help
create an English version of the site was politely declined by the
webmaster. Too much to do.

OK, well I'm resourceful, unlike a typical exporter in the
US, I know people who know people in the Oblast. I ask around and find
the personal email address for the person in charge of developing
foreign investments and I write an email requesting information about
exporting Oblast products to the US. The very opportunity that the
Oblast is desperately searching for (by the way, I didn't fabricate
anything, I actually know somebody who is very interested in this).

I never received an answer.

I mentioned this to some workers within the Oblast. I never heard
anything more.

This was 4 months ago.

This kind of thing is repeated constantly.

The very structure of how things are done is broken in Ukraine. It is
a remnant of 70 years of Soviet rule. It is not necessarily based on
politics anymore but is more cultural. Why this is and how to fix it
is a much longer post but the point is that there is a societal
overhaul that is long overdue.

I'm no political genius but it seems there should be more effort in business development and less concerts and balloons. Or am I being too dramatic?

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