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Ukraine Has Economic "Window of Opportunity"

(Washington, DC--July 19, 2001) Despite its much-commented upon political problems, Ukraine now has a "short window of opportunity" to secure its future, according to a leading American investor in Ukraine's economy.

Michael Bleyzer, President and CEO of SigmaBleyzer, a U.S.-based investment firm with over $100 million of investments in Ukraine, told an RFE/RL briefing in Washington that the past decade was "long enough for a transition period" and that now is Ukraine's "last best chance" to complete necessary economic reforms.

Reforms introduced so far, he said, produced in 2000 the first growth in Ukraine's GDP since independence, led to an 8.5 percent increase in real income, a 17 percent reduction in external public debt, and positive foreign trade and current account balances. In the first four months of 2001, growth accelerated to nine percent, he said.

Working with the Thunderbird Corporate Consulting Group, Bleyzer's company studied the economies of many countries undergoing the transition to capitalism, to identify those government policies best able to improve a country's investment climate and attract private capital. Released earlier this year, his group's study urges Ukraine to demonstrate the political will needed to follow the example of countries like Chile, Hungary, and Poland.

According to Bleyzer, "every transition economy must start by being a capital importer" because it is moving away from a "system that has failed and lacks sufficient savings to fuel economic growth." Bleyzer believes that private equity investment is superior to public debt in financing transition economies because it reduces the government's role and responsibility in the economy, leads to fundamental change in the structure of the economy, and promotes the development of sustainable businesses.

Bleyzer urged the West to demonstrate political will as well by helping countries like Ukraine, despite their political problems and the existence of human rights abuses.