Wil­lard: Novem­ber con­fer­ence will help na­tion chart its path

Kyiv Post - - Opinion - Kyiv Post CEO Michael Wil­lard can be reached at wil­[email protected]

Bo­ryspil in Septem­ber 1994. At that time, I had shed my­self of the big boat on which I lived, a two-en­gine air­plane, a shiny red Porsche and a few other un­nec­es­sary baubles.

There is some­thing about this coun­try that gets un­der your skin and stays there. It’s like that fa­vored over­coat that, over time, be­comes torn and faded but more com­fort­able. I came for a year, and now my ticket has been punched for the du­ra­tion. In Ukraine, I have seen a col­lec­tion of failed pres­i­den­cies and - it some­times seems – more prime min­is­ters than there were play­ers who suited up for Euro 2012 matches.

Speak­ing to a group of Eu­ro­pean and East Eu­ro­pean am­bas­sadors at a din­ner re­cently, I was asked what I thought Ukraine needed to pull its socks up and, frankly, to avoid be­com­ing “Be­larus Lite.” It was an easy ques­tion, but the an­swer I gave might strike some as rem­i­nis­cent of Pollyanna.

I said Ukraine has the re­sources, but sim­ply lacks lead­ers with courage and moral back­bone. The first pres­i­dent who wants his grand­kids to be proud of him - not for plun­der­ing but for build­ing Ukraine’s fu­ture - will be the coun­try’s first real leader. In other words, the first Pres­i­dent to em­brace an hon­or­able legacy will be a hero for the ages.

“Sleep­ing tigers” are coun­tries with high po­ten­tial, vast economies and sub­stan­tial hu­man re­sources, and which are at the cross­roads of trad­ing routes. Yet, their po­ten­tial is largely un­tapped to do po­lit­i­cal so­cial or other de­vel­op­ment bar­ri­ers. This is Ukraine.

“Leap­ing tigers” are de­vel­oped na­tions in the full force of their de­vel­op­ment. They have high qual­ity in­fra­struc­ture and are busi­ness and for­eign direct in­vest­ment friendly. They have had the fore­sight to clear the path for com­mer­cial de­vel­op­ment by eas­ing reg­u­la­tions and dis­man­tling bu­reau­cratic bar­ri­ers. Their lead­ers are vi­sion­ar­ies, not val­ue­less empty rain­coats.

Most of the na­tions of South­east Asia are leap­ing tigers to­day, as they have been for sev­eral decades. Ukraine’s clos­est neigh­bor to have awak­ened is Ge­or­gia, though much smaller then Ukraine, it ap­pears on the route to be­com­ing a leap­ing tiger.

The Kyiv Post Con­fer­ence “Will the Sleep­ing Tiger Awaken?” in part­ner­ship with the East Europe Foun­da­tion is set for Nov. 26-27th in Kyiv. We hope you will be able to at­tend.

Whether you are ex­pat or Ukrainian, I have a feel­ing that most of you are like me. You dream of an awak­en­ing tiger in Ukraine.

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