Investment-starved Ukraine plans ‘nanny’ for wealthy foreigners

DAVOS, Switzerland (AFP) – Ukraine, battling a sharp decline in foreign investment, yesterday announced a novel plan to attract more cash inflows – a “nanny” to look after foreigners wary of putting their money in the country.

Prime Minister Oleksiy Goncharuk told investors at the economic forum in Davos that such a nanny would be a multilingual point person within the government for big foreign investors ready to help with any issue.

Foreign direct investment (FDI) into Ukraine has plummeted since the 2014 annexation of Crimea by Moscow and the war with pro-Russian separatists in the east which led to the rapid pullout of Russian investors.

“We are offering an investment nanny,” Goncharuk told a breakfast meeting of investors at the Davos World Economic Forum (WEF) organised by the Viktor Pinchuk Foundation.

“You will have this opportunity to have a specific individual in the government who will hear you,” he added.

He pledged that the government of President Volodymyr Zelensky would “show the world that Ukraine is open to investment” notably by fighting corruption, which is regularly seen as the biggest scourge for the economy.

Ukrainian Prime Minister Oleksiy Goncharuk (R) attends a session of the Parliament in Kiev on January 17. PHOTO: AFP

“There is no doubt that at the highest level there is no corruption,” he said. “But this is not enough.”

Zelensky, who addressed the forum on Wednesday before heading on a visit to Israel, told investors in a special video message anyone who invests more than USD100 million in Ukraine would have such a personal “guardian” from the government.

“It is the state that will protect you. You will have a manager – an investment nanny – who speaks five languages and works with you 24/7,” said the President.

FDI to Ukraine dropped in 2018 to under USD2.4 billion, according to the United Nation’s (UN) trade agency, after registering over USD8 billion in 2012.

Investors present pointed out to Goncharuk that one of the key needs of a foreign investor is political stability, a sentiment not helped in Ukraine by a political crisis this month that saw the premier offer to resign.

Zelensky refused to accept the resignation of Goncharuk, saying he wanted to give the premier “a second chance” in the job after he offered to quit following a leaked recording emerged of him questioning the president’s grasp of economics.

Repeatedly pressed over his intentions at the conference, Goncharuk insisted he had no plans to quit. “I am not planning to step down. We have wonderful relations within the team.

“We will stay as long as we have trust,” he added.

Zelensky, a former comedian and actor who in a hit show played the part of a teacher who unexpectedly became President, took office in May last year after winning a landslide election victory on pledges to reform the country and end the war in the east.

“We do not have sufficient investments,” Zelensky told the forum on Wednesday. “Ukraine is the place where miracles come true. Today we are under-invested and under-loved, so don’t miss out on Ukraine.”