Kyiv is the capital of a country which is de-facto at war. After the parliamentary elections, the city found itself in the middle of a political scandal as the team of the newly elected president Volodymyr Zelenskyy aims to take control over the city by taking powers from the elected mayor Vitaliy Klitchko. Notwithstanding this, Kyiv is continuing to develop as a modern European city and remains worth investing in. During the Kyiv Investment Forum, city officials, guests from abroad, Ukrainian experts and businessmen were looking at ways of how to make the city more attractive for its citizens, tourists and investors.
The mayor Vitaliy Klitschko opened the Forum. However, during recent months his position has been shaken. On 4 September, the new Cabinet of Ministers decided to dismiss him from the position of head of the Kyiv City State Administration. Since 2003 there has been a practice that the position should be held by one person. However, the intentions of Zelenskyy’s team to seize power in Kyiv became clear in mid-summer 2019 before the parliamentary elections. So far there is only one formal step missing for Klitschko’s dismissal, which is the president’s decision.
Predictably, questions regarding this, and in particularly regarding the new bill on the capital, was the main subject of the journalists’ interest. According to the draft law, registered by the MPs from the president’s Servant of the People party MPs, the head of the Kyiv City State Administration should be appointed and dismissed by the president following the corresponding document drafted by the Cabinet. During the press-briefing, Klitschko commented that the bill would destroy local self-governance and Kyiv citizens’ opportunity to elect authorities. He also added that it contradicted the idea of decentralization; in fact achieving precisely the opposite.
However, the political situation was not the main issue which the mayor started the Forum with. The central question of the Forum was how to turn Kyiv into an agglomeration.
“Such a cooperation of the capital and surrounding cities will speed up the development of the region and its infrastructure, and will increase the investment attractiveness of greater Kyiv. We are already related through working force, infrastructure and other components. I’ll note that around a half a million people come to work in Kyiv every day.”
The Kyiv mayor also boasted about recent Kyiv achievements, among which is the increase in the number of tourists.
“In 2015, one million tourists visited Kyiv. Last year there were three million tourists. By the end of this year we expect four million tourists.”
In her turn, Courtney Fingar, Editor-in-Chief at the fDi Magazine, Head of Content at fDi Intelligence, and the Financial Times specialist outlined the place of Kyiv on the global tourism market, as well as the IT sector which is one of the most promising ones for Ukraine’s capital, and other areas in general.
“The city is ranked in the top 10 in Europe amongst major cities. Obviously the major cities category is the most competitive. They are the heavyweights of Europe. Kyiv ranks in the top 10 for cost competitiveness. Also it is ranked in the top 10 for return on budget investment and this is extremely important. To come up with this metric we took the amount that a city spends on trying to promote itself for investment in terms of staff and resources as opposed to how much the city receives. What we found is that Kyiv was among the best cities in the world for actually doing a lot with a little: attracting a lot of investment with a quite a small team,” the expert said.
The fDi team has also used their instruments for benchmarking locations to describe Kyiv’s attractiveness for doing IT business, which as recognized by the experts is the most modern and promising field for the capital.
Benchmarking Kyiv for software and IT against regional competitors, Kyiv comes out cheaper than regional competitors. It’s not just cost, but quality.
According to fDi, Ukraine is not yet in the top-10 countries in Europe for investment in tourism. Fingar sees no reason why that should not be the case, given everything this country and the city has to offer.
“One of the sectors showing one of the biggest increases globally at the moment is tourism. and I point that out because, of course, tourism is important to Kyiv, and Ukraine in general. We are seeing a global increase in tourism figures and alongside that we are also seeing an increase in global investment in tourism, like infrastructure, hotels and training facilities. However the increase in investment has not matched the increase in tourism numbers. That means that locations including Ukraine and Kyiv need to try even harder to get the necessary investment to support this growth in tourism and make their environments an attractive place for international visitors. Because the visitors are keen to travel and visit.”
In a comment to Euromaidan Press, Fingar pointed out that Kyiv’s main problem is its international perception. In particular how safe investors believe Kyiv to be, as often when people think about Ukraine, they think of the war and political problems, and therefore have an inaccurate perception of Kyiv in terms of safety, security and stability.
“It is true of course that the war does impact on security and stability in the entire country, and it is important that there be some resolution of this. But in the meantime Kyiv as a city and the vast majority of the country is actually stable and safe, and therefore it is very important that the message be delivered to international community that things are safe, and to show that they are secure and the developments that are happening in the city have nothing to do with the wider geopolitical challenges that Ukraine has.”
During the panel discussions, the speakers defined the main assets and points for improvement Kyiv has. Among the obstacles there are underdeveloped infrastructure and lack of interaction between the local government and other stakeholders involved in the processes of city development.
However the speakers agreed on Kyiv’s main asset, which is its people.
“Everything which is created in Kyiv should be aimed at the world if we want to have economic growth. In Ukraine, creativity and entrepreneurship is in our DNA. However, for many years it was suppressed in Ukrainians and now we need to renew it,” Nataliya Mykolska, former deputy head of the Minister of the Economic Development and Trade said.
The number of projects in the emerging Europe region has increased during the last five years. Fingar points out that the number one reason for that is skilled people.
Recently Kyiv has been compared to other cities, such as Prague or London, which is an example of how art projects have transformed it. Looking for examples of development, Fingar advises paying attention to neighboring countries, in particular Poland, while not forgetting the city’s own uniqueness and beauty.