Mayor Klitschko on Transforming Kyiv and Fighting Corruption in Ukraine
Kyiv mayor (and former heavyweight champion) Vitaliy Klitschko visited GMF’s Washington office to share how he is transforming Kyiv, addressing corruption, and helping Ukrainians achieve their political and economic aspirations following the EuroMaidan in 2014. Klitschko highlighted several positive examples of progress in Kyiv including transportation, increased tourism, environmental improvements and e-governance implementation. He was also sober about the serious challenges facing Ukrainians given Russia’s ongoing actions to undermine Ukraine and the entrenched corruption.
It has been four and a half years since public protests began in Maidan Nezalezhnosti in Kyiv. The spirit of Ukrainians and the EuroMaidan that has been the fuel for change in Ukraine is being tested by the ongoing hot conflict in Eastern Ukraine, continued Russian aggression, and by what some in Ukraine and internationally perceive as slowdown in key political, economic, and security reforms. What is your view of Ukraine’s progress in this period and how can officials in Ukraine fulfil the aspirations of the Ukrainian people?
Mayor Klitschko: We must continue our work and be involved, and not just expect the changes. I deliver this message to every Ukrainian: we are responsible for everything. For our house, for our district, for our city, for our town, for our country. You have successful citizens. You have a successful country. And that way, we change the system to give opportunity to everyone to develop.
Yes, of course, we have a lot of challenges, a lot of problems, which we have to fix. But we have achieved in this time, also, a lot of things. No fight, no win. We have to fight, to continue our fight for our values, for our goals, for our country.
You have been vocal about transparency and tackling corruption. Why is this a priority and what needs to be done to address it?
Mayor Klitschko: Corruption stopped our reform. It has destroyed the country. Ukraine has huge potential. Our main goal is to use this potential as fast as possible. A good example, just 15 years ago, the GDP of Poland was three time less than Ukraine’s. Today, Poland’s is five time bigger than Ukraine’s. And Poland is very close to Ukraine in its mentality and population, in the size of the country and the system we have had for the last 20 years. Why can’t Ukraine do exactly the same? After the Russian invasion, corruption is the second biggest challenge for our country. If we do not stop and do not win, the corruption can destroy the country from inside.
As mayor of Kyiv, I sometimes need to micromanage the fight against corruption. For example, plowing and cleaning snow from the streets in Kyiv.
Sometimes Kyiv has a lot of snow. Last winter we had a half meter — more than five feet — and we had to clear the streets. We bought new snow plows, and but I was not happy with how the streets were being cleared. So, we implemented GPS trackers for every plow. Still, I was not happy with how the streets were being cleared. We investigated and found that drivers did not put the plow down because the car used double the gasoline if the plow was down to really clear the street. They pretended to clean the street and they sold the rest of gasoline to make money. We connected GPS tracker to the tank and to the plow and now we see when the plows are clearing the street how effectively they work. Some drivers did not want to drive anymore because they did not have income from gasoline. So, we found new drivers and increased the salaries for all drivers.
This is one example of how we try to change the system. And I never did that in my life before, but if you want something very much, if you have energy and you have passion and reason, you can achieve every goal. And that is why I am more than sure that Kyiv will be a European city and Ukraine will be European country. We are European, geographically, with our mentality, with our history, but we need European standards of life. That is our main goal and that why we are working hard in this way.
How should the United States and other countries and international financial institutions adjust their policies and assistance to support Ukraine in 2018 and going forward? How can partners best help cities in Ukraine like Kyiv thrive and be at the forefront of change?
Mayor Klitschko: I want to say thank you very much to America and thank you very much to the American government for the support offered in this very difficult period of time. Thank you for support of our vision to be a modern democratic European country. Thank you very much to the business people who have invested in Ukraine, because Ukraine has huge potential. Potential in agriculture, potential with the people who live in Ukraine. We have so many IT companies, including American IT companies, who work in Ukraine. We want to lay the ground for very positive and successful growth for everyone who comes to Ukraine and works in Ukraine.
When we have stopped the conflict in the east, when we have brought Crimea back to Ukraine, our success — our political, economic success — will be the best answer for our friends.
And, also for our enemies.
The views expressed in GMF publications and commentary are the views of the author alone.