Wednesday, May 1, 2024

Kyiv, Ukraine

DEPUTY ADMINISTRATOR ISOBEL COLEMAN: Thank you, Ambassador [Bridget] Brink. To our distinguished Ukrainian government leaders in the room: Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Economy [Yulia] Svyrydenko and Deputy Minister of Economy [Volodymyr] Kuzyo – thank you for inviting me here today, and for your steadfast leadership of Ukraine during this very critical moment in world history. 

And welcome to all the leaders joining from the business, finance, insurance, and media sectors to discuss how we can rally together to support Ukraine’s economic resilience and prosperity. It’s an honor to be with you today.

Just over two months ago, we marked two years since Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine. That’s 738 days of unrelenting brutality, outmatched only by the courage and determination of the Ukrainian people.

The future of Europe, and in many ways the future of the world, depends on the continued bravery and tenacity of the Ukrainian people. We know this, which is why the United States – and democratic allies around the world – continue to stand in support of our Ukrainian partners. 

I just arrived today in Ukraine from Moldova. In every meeting I had there, Moldovan leaders told me: “the #1 way that the United States can support Moldova is by supporting Ukraine. Our freedom relies on their freedom.” This is what I heard, again and again.  That sentiment is shared by so many Americans. Your freedom is our freedom. And we will continue to stand with you. It may not always be pretty – democracy isn’t always easy, or fast. But as the bipartisan vote in the U.S. Congress on the recent $61 billion in supplemental funding for Ukraine just demonstrated, Americans of both political parties overwhelmingly stand with Ukraine. 

As we know, Putin is waging war not just on Ukraine’s armed forces, but also on its economy. And we’ve just seen remarkable statistics on how Ukraine is fighting back. 

The United States is, of course, providing weapons and support that Ukraine needs to stay in the fight against Putin’s aggression. We all know how vitally important military assistance is. But today I want to spend some time detailing the other ways that the U.S. government, and specifically USAID, will continue to support the people of Ukraine. And how – with all of us pitching in – we will not only spur growth, but benefit from it. Because Ukraine holds tremendous potential, and it is going to emerge from this conflict stronger than ever. 

First of all, we are addressing Ukraine’s urgent humanitarian needs. That means we’re providing critical goods and services: getting urgent medical supplies to the most vulnerable, providing care to the sick, delivering food to the hungry. And as Russia’s barbaric attacks on Ukraine’s civilian population have left over 14 million Ukrainians in need, we are surging help to help those who need it most.

The new supplemental funding will enable us to contribute hundreds of millions of dollars more in humanitarian assistance. That means monthly cash support for tens of thousands of people, emergency shelter and winterization assistance, psychosocial support for conflict-affected individuals, and continued funding for frontline health services.

In parallel to responding to the most urgent, we are also laser-focused on advancing the most important. And that means we are strategically investing in the strength, resilience, and independence of the Ukrainian people, and the Ukrainian economy, over the long-term. We do this, first and foremost, because it is the right thing to do. But we are also making these investments so that over the long term, Ukraine will be able to fund more of its own needs, and emerge from this conflict stronger.  

One key to Ukraine’s recovery will be a robust, growing, and vibrant private sector; and an economy that creates jobs, increases exports, and generates tax revenues. We are therefore helping Ukrainian businesses become more competitive, helping protect and strengthen the energy sector, and strengthening democratic institutions that uphold rule of law and the transparent processes investors need to invest in Ukraine. 

Our goal is not simply to respond to Ukraine in its time of need – though we are doing that. It is to support Ukraine in unleashing its extraordinary economic potential. Take the agricultural sector. As the Russian military attempts to destroy a portion of Ukraine’s economy that helps feed the world, USAID is working with businesses to get Ukraine’s farmers the seeds and fertilizer, grain storage facilities, and safe export routes they need to grow and sell their food. 

Our agriculture investments to date, which total nearly $380 million, coupled with the tenacity and ingenuity of the Ukrainian people, have helped Ukraine achieve amazing results. Between December of last year and this February, for example, Ukraine’s average grain exports per month reached pre-February 2022 levels for the first time. That’s amazing given how much productive land has been affected by the war – an extraordinary accomplishment. 

And we expect that growth to continue. The World Bank predicts a 15 percent increase in Ukrainian exports this year, and a 30 percent jump in 2025 – creating revenue that will help Ukraine defend itself and provide essential services for citizens.

Of course, energy impacts all of this. And as Putin attempts to weaponize that fact, by targeting Ukraine’s electrical grid and its heating systems, USAID has committed nearly a billion dollars to repair damaged infrastructure, deploy vital protective materials, deliver backup generators, and provide fuel and fuel vouchers to keep Ukraine’s lights on and its heat running. 

We all know that attacks on Ukraine’s energy infrastructure have accelerated in recent weeks. But we also know well the resilience of the Ukrainian people. And USAID will continue to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with our partners. That’s why we’ve recently allocated funding to support emergency repairs and rehabilitation of the energy sector, and will soon mobilize additional resources from the supplemental to help Ukraine prepare for next winter.

Last, but definitely not least, the United States and our partners will continue helping secure Ukraine’s macroeconomic stability and economic security, so that the Ukrainian government can prioritize focusing its own resources on the war effort. And in tandem, we will continue to take steps to help Ukrainian businesses get access to the capital they need. 

Steps like those announced by USAID Administrator Samantha Power and key partners last month, such as having the Nasdaq stock exchange waive its listing fees for Ukrainian companies, and Bank of America’s pledge to provide senior investment bankers to Minister Svyrydenko’s team here at the Ministry of the Economy.  

Of course, all of what I’ve laid out, and not least budget support, rests upon the Government of Ukraine’s continued commitment to openness, transparency, and the fight against corruption. I cannot overstate this point, which remains essential not only for the U.S. government, but for progress toward EU accession, which is truly where Ukraine’s future lies. Ukraine’s advancement to date on reforms during wartime has been remarkable, but there is much more still to be done. Governmental accountability and transparency remain essential prerequisites for developing the business environment that will move Ukraine forward. 

In fact, recent surveys by the American Chamber of Commerce and European Business Association in Kyiv underscore that a lack of confidence in the judicial system and contract enforcement, as well as corruption, are key impediments to foreign direct investment. And support for democratic reform and the rule of law continue to lie at the heart of the modern Ukrainian project. It’s what the Ukrainian people want, it underpins Ukraine’s European future, and it’s essential to sustaining U.S. support. 

That's why the U.S. government will remain steadfast in our commitment to backing democratic reformers and independent media, who should always be able to freely function as an essential component in a healthy democracy.  

Today, we are working with mayors, independent media, civil society, and the government in Kyiv in implementing hundreds of programs to strengthen civic engagement, advance governance reforms, continue reporting during wartime, and fight corruption. 

In conclusion, all of the efforts I’ve outlined today emanate from a single goal: to enable Ukraine not only to win the war, but, as Ambassador Brink noted, to win the peace, to win the future. We desire, and have confidence that we will see, a future Ukrainian defined by the prosperity and dignity only a strong and resilient economy can provide. 

So we are enabling our Ukrainian partners as they build back stronger – not only to a state of self-sufficiency, but also to one of growth. We are committed to nurturing an environment that is ripe for increased international investment. And of unleashing Ukraine’s economic power, so that it may continue to fund its own security and defense. 

Those of you joining from the private sector today are critical to these efforts. We in government can only help Ukraine set the conditions for success. Your role is essential to helping to rebuild Ukraine’s economy and setting this beautiful country up to thrive over the long term. You hold the keys to unlocking vast economic potential at this pivotal moment. 

So I’ll end where I began. Your freedom is our freedom; your prosperity is our prosperity. We have your back, and we look to the future together. 

Slava Ukraini!  

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