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Yulia Tymoshenko, Ukraine’s former prime minister, says her political coalition is committed to a programme of privatization and economic reform if a representative of her team assumes the top job in the country’s next government.
Tymoshenko, whose bloc came second in March’s general election, says that all aspects of Ukraine’s economy would be considered for privatization – except for the ministry of defence – in an attempt to reassure foreign investors that her image as a populist is misleading.
"Our government will try to open all doors to attract foreign investors into Ukraine. Without foreign investment Ukraine's future is bleak" Yulia Tymoshenko
“Our government will try to open all doors to attract foreign investors into Ukraine,” she tells Euromoney. “Without foreign investment Ukraine’s future is bleak.”
She adds: “Privatization in Ukraine should be continued of those assets that are in state ownership. These include UkrTelekom, coal mines and chemical enterprises.”
She says that she will also cut the country’s bureaucracy in a bid to improve corporate governance. “My government abolished more than 5,000 regulatory acts that provided opportunities for bureaucrats to corrupt business. Since my resignation no act has been abolished yet another 5,000 need to be,” she says. “The return of our team to government will continue fundamental changes in Ukraine.”
In her time as prime minister, between February and September 2005, one of Tymoshenko’s most controversial acts was to reprivatize metallurgical company Kryvorizhstal. Critics accused the government of appropriating private assets. But she says that her views on reselling so-called illegal privatizations conducted under the administration of Leonid Kuchma have been misinterpreted. “I never used the term reprivatization or nationalization as it’s against what I believe,” she says. “No bureaucrat or government minister should comment on the rights of private property. That’s the remit of the courts.”
When Tymoshenko first became prime minister there were reports of conflict between her and president Yushchenko over the number of companies that would be resold. But Tymoshenko says that she never made any public statement on this issue. “I never suggested or supported any official announcements on specific numbers,” she says. “I never gave any figures.”
Another contentious issue is gas supply. Ukraine is dependent on gas imports from Russia, specifically Gazprom, which supplies Ukraine with gas through RosUkrEnergo, in which it holds a 50% stake. Last month, the Wall Street Journal reported that the US Justice Department was investigating RosUkrEnergo about its opaque ownership structure. Tymoshenko says she is opposed to Ukraine’s increased energy dependency and specifically RosUkrEnergo’s role in the country. “We will scrutinize relations with RosUkrEnergo,” she says. “Myself and the president will work towards removing all intermediaries between Ukraine and Russia.”
Tymoshenko is confident that the political embargo in Ukraine will soon be resolved. Her coalition is negotiating with president Yushchenko’s bloc, which came third in the election, over the formation of the next government. It is widely expected that Tymoshenko will regain her former position of prime minister, though talks are continuing. If she does return to her old post, she is adamant that her relationship with Yushchenko will not break down again. “We are in the same boat,” she says. “If someone destabilizes the boat then we all drown.”
She adds: “Good relations between us are necessary for Ukraine’s development. We need to rise above political ambitions.”