The article has been authored by Ukraine's Prime Minister Volodymyr Hroisman for Forbes.
Ukraine is undergoing a monumental transformation. It is more complex and dramatic than anything we’ve seen on the European continent in recent years. None of the countries in Eastern Europe that underwent change in the post-Soviet period were as integrated within the Soviet space. And none were as victimized for choosing to integrate more with Europe. The transformation happening in Ukraine, a country of 45 million people, will have a substantial impact on the development of Europe as a whole.
Three years ago, during the Revolution of Dignity, throughout many cold, wintry weeks on the streets of Kiev and across the country, Ukrainians rejected authoritarianism and a closed nation—a choice some of us paid for with our lives. Although we continue to pay the highest price for that choice —with thousands of lives lost to Russian aggression in the east and the Russian annexation of Crimea —our determination about the future direction of the country remains steadfast, facing westward toward European values, freedoms and institutions. Today, we are rebuilding Ukraine and its institutions, launching a full restart of our entire society, which is still struggling with inefficiency, corruption and populism. Despite our many challenges, my government remains fully committed to the reforms we began to undertake in earnest last year.
Over the past three years since the revolution, we have made more progress than in the 25 years since our independence from the Soviet Union. We lowered the budget deficit almost five-fold, while at the same time making a sizable investment in defense and security. We launched big changes in the energy sector, raising tariffs on natural gas to full market price. This ended years of shadowy deals by gas trader intermediaries that cost the country billions in lost revenue. Our parliament also adopted laws in the natural gas market to reform our state oil and gas company, Naftogaz, in accordance with European energy sector rules.
We are taking important steps to fight corruption, including establishing new institutions to investigate and prosecute perpetrators. We have also completely overhauled the police force, and in a short time it has become one of our most trusted institutions. Recently we launched a new e-declaration system that requires all civil servants to declare their assets and income — a standard that is more advanced than in most EU member countries. I was the first prime minister in Ukrainian history to file such a declaration, along with more than 100,000 top officials, including the president, MPs, judges and civil servants.
As a former mayor of the city of Vinnytsia, I know first-hand that governments are more responsive and accountable when more power rests with local communities. This is why as prime minister I am still dedicated to a policy of decentralization. I believe this is essential to make a lasting break with our Soviet past where all decisions were made by a small group of people at the top.
Alongside ongoing structural reform, we are prioritizing growing our economy, creating jobs and raising living standards for all Ukrainians. In October, the Cabinet of Ministers approved the formation of Ukraine Invest, an investment promotion office that will be dedicated to helping international investors take advantage of the huge economic opportunities opening up in Ukraine. We have also hugely deregulated the economy. The number of permits, licenses, taxes and fees was nearly halved, and a new business can be registered within 24 hours. Just recently, Fitch elevated Ukraine’s rating from CCC to B-, and this year we witnessed three successive quarters of real GDP growth. These are signs we are moving in the right direction.
Although much has been achieved, we still have a long way to go and there are many obstacles on the road ahead. For me, overstating our success is as unacceptable as understating what Ukrainians have done to make our country prosperous, free and democratic.
We are thankful to our international partners who over the past three years have helped us in our transformation. Despite our resolve, Ukraine still needs the active, meaningful support of the international community. We believe that the positive trends we are witnessing in our country’s economy will open a new phase in our cooperation. We are certain that we are poised for mutual success, because Ukraine’s success will be a win for all those committed to democratic values and freedom.