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Ihor Liski: "Trust between business and the state is critical for the country's survival"

If before the full-scale war, the main demand of business to the government was "don't disturb us, we'll figure it out ourselves", now effective cooperation with the state is needed, said Ihor Liski, Chairman of the Supervisory Board of EFI Group, during the panel discussion "Economic Revival: What the state should do to grow the economy" (held as part of the joint project of and EFI Group New Country). But this cooperation, he stressed, should be built on mutual trust. How to achieve this and what business lacks today - in the key messages of Ihor Liski. 

Ihor Liski, Chairman of the Supervisory Board of EFI Group
Photo: Oleh Pereverzev
Ihor Liski, Chairman of the Supervisory Board of EFI Group

Both the state and business need to establish parity relations, says the Chairman of the Supervisory Board of EFI Group. This means paying taxes, on the one hand, and financing, providing infrastructure, and assistance from partners, on the other. Therefore, cooperation between business and government based on trust is "the only condition for our survival as a country, a nation, and our children."

According to Ihor Liski, Ukrainian business is very underestimated due to the lack of trust in the government.

"We have a lot of cool, real, indestructible and promising businesses. Do you know why we don't hear about them? Because they are afraid to come forward and tell us something about themselves. I have recently heard about companies that export innovative molecules for pharmaceuticals for $200 million a year. They are second after Pfizer. Do you know about this? Nobody knows about it. But there is a lot of such business. We need to release this energy," says the businessman. 

In his opinion, the potential of business has not been unlocked either in financing defence capabilities or in financing innovations, the military-industrial complex, or in the construction of fortifications, or in the development of public administration. And the authorities, represented by MPs, the president, and government officials, must learn to use this resource. So far, the government has also demonstrated a lack of trust in business, Liski says.

"For example, I do a lot for the frontline, for some individual brigades. But as an entrepreneur, I have to find a guerrilla way to understand what needs to be produced now. The state does not trust me, I do not trust it, there is no connection.

Let's remember how the United States, together with Britain and its allies, won World War II. How we developed new air defence systems in 75 days. When business and the army and the state allocate money for research and development. Where is this trust? I want to hear the state come out and say: I have a billion hryvnyas to develop Ukrainian air defence, we believe in it. Why is this not happening now?

Because there is no trust. The state is reluctant to go to business because it thinks this money will be stolen. And business does not want to engage in. Do you think there is a queue to supply products to the Ministry of Defence? Because there isn't. After all, they will come with searches for a penny and put everyone in jail," the businessman outlined the situation.

That's why fundamental changes are critically needed, says Liski. "We cannot wait for next year or the next election, which we may not live to see. This trust needs to be earned back right now. We have no other chance to survive as a country," he says. 

How to change the situation?

"I have simple suggestions - we need to radically improve the legislation.

If this is a struggle for trust, and we conditionally trust the Deputy Prime Minister [Yuliya Svyrydenko], let's radically reformat the BES and let her appoint its head. Conditionally. Let him report to her.

Because she is responsible for the economy. Right now, Yuliya Anatoliyivna is sitting here reporting on what they are doing. And these guys [BES] report to other people. This is the system, how can she influence them?" says Ihor Liski.

In addition, the inefficiency of the state apparatus cannot be overcome without a change in mentality.

"The Ukrainian mentality should also be taken into account here. Basically, two generations and the mentality will change. We are already evolving. If there was no war, we would be somewhere in the middle of Europe or in NATO, I would be ready to wait. I honestly believe that there is a sincere movement in this direction. Unfortunately, we don't have these two generations. We are at war, and the issue of trust is a matter of survival. It's a matter of the Armed Forces, mobilisation, paying taxes.

... The state must fight for the trust of entrepreneurs and win this fight. I will say a terrible thing: we may have to discuss tax increases very soon. In these circumstances, how can we talk about increasing taxes if we don't believe in the way they are collected or distributed? And this will be a much worse situation than with mobilisation," Liski believes. 

Photo: Oleh Pereverzev

In addition to trust in and support from the government, businesses also need

● Sustainable infrastructure.

"Banks, energy, public management, taxation - this is the infrastructure for business. It needs to be stable, organised, and calm," the businessman notes;

● financial leverage.

A system is needed to enable businesses to attract project and conventional financing.

"I will say modestly: we are building two large factories. And I got an insight, so to speak, when I received a report from Washington that even Samantha Power mentioned that there is an Ihor Liski who wants to build a glass factory. He has everything: technology, people, equity, but no project financing. I really hope that as a country we will agree on this with our partner," summed up Ihor Liski. 

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