Willard: November conference will help nation chart its path
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.