- Due to irregular rains, Ukraine’s key sunflower seed crop fell by 10.7% in 2017, while the planted area only fell by only 0.7%, reports the State Statistics Service. Even worse, soybean production fell by 9%, while the planted acreage increased by 6.3%. In contrast, production of rapeseed almost doubled while the planted area increased by 6.3%. Used for canola cooking oil, rapeseed is the most drought resistant of the three oilseeds.
- Ukraine ranks 39th of 15 countries in a 2017 budget transparency index. Compared to 2016, Ukraine rose 18 positions in the Open Budget Index compiled by the International Budget Partnership. In the Index, Ukraine is tied with Spain, and eight positions higher than Hungary. Oksana Markarova, First Deputy Finance Minister, told reporters that one positive factor is the new E-Data budget portal. Open around the clock, it gets 20,000 visitors a day.
- Two years after a legal deadline, 16,743 Ukrainian companies have not made public the identities of their ultimate owners, according to OpenDataBot, a monitoring service of registration data. In the aftermath of the 2014 Revolution of Dignity, the Rada passed a law setting a 2015 deadline obliging Ukrainian companies to submit information to the state registrar about their ultimate beneficiary owners.
- Google’s Ukraine affiliate increased its revenue by 75% in 2017, entering the list of the nation’s top 100 taxpayers, Google LLC Director General Dmytro Sholomko, reports to Interfax. Contributing to this growth, Ukraine’s mobile Internet has exceeded traditional computer internet, he said. Participating in a European Business Association macroeconomic forecast, he said Ukraine’s IT advancement is reflected in decisions by PayPal, Samsung and Waze to open development centers here.
- Power distributor Ukrenergo, a leading target for cyber attacks, will invest up to $20 million in a new cyber defense system, its chief executive said Tuesday. Vsevolod Kovalchuk told reporters that Ukrenergo and international consultants identified about 20 threats. These would be neutralized by new software and a new system to be in place by 2020. In the last two years, cyber attackers, believed to be Russian, cut the power on two occasions – once in western Ukraine and once in Kyiv. Reuters quotes Kovalchuk saying: “We have developed a new concept of cyber security whose key goal is to make it physically impossible for external threats to affect the Ukrainian energy system.”
- “Ukraine’s investment shortage puts rebound at risk,” warns an article in the Financial Times from Dnipropetrovsk region. High domestic interest rates and skittish foreign investors are blamed for last year’s low GDP growth rate of 2%. Ivan Miklos, an advisor to President Poroshenko and a former Slovak finance minister, says direct investment is only 15% of GDP, far below the 25% needed to get Ukraine growing at 6-7% a year.
- Inflation will taper off to single digits by the middle of 2019, Yakiv Smoliy, acting governor of the National Bank of Ukraine, predicted Tuesday in a meeting with Rada MPs, Ukrinform reports. Last year, inflation was 13.7%. After raising Ukraine’s prime interest rate two weeks ago, Smoliy lost popularity in parliament. He now is meeting with parliamentary factions to win support in a confirmation vote, expected for the end of this month.
- Ukrainian science researchers punched above their weight, winning 5.5% percent of EU grant money spread among 42 countries -- 28 EU member nations and 14 associated nations. Competing for Horizon 2020 grants, 83 Ukrainian organizations -- universities, research institutions and private sector entities -- won EUR 17.2 million, or about EUR 207,600 apiece. In this highly competitive contest, 16% of Ukraine’s 505 applicants won grants.
- London-based Opal Transfer is launching a new money transfer service between Poland and Ukraine. Using the fintech company’s app, users can do same day transfers for $1.50. Poland’s National Bank estimates that in 2016 Ukrainians transferred home 5 billion Polish Zloty, or $1.5 billion.
- To modernize rail infrastructure, Ukraine will invest $650 million this year, the largest amount in a decade, Infrastructure Minister Volodymyr Omelyan told reporters Tuesday. Of interest to business, the state railroad will buy 30 General Electric locomotives, produce 3,600 freight cars and renovate 10,000 more. For passengers, the state railroad will buy 30 new passenger railcars and modernize 226 more. About half of the money will go to completing the Beskidy tunnel through the Carpathians and to electrifying sections of track, largely feeder lines to Black Sea ports.
- Ukravtodor is starting a 5-year road building and renovation program to connect all 24 regional capitals with ‘high quality’ roads, Oleksandr Kharchenko, acting deputy head of the state highway authority, told reporters Tuesday. Ukravtodor plans to spend $643 million to repair and rebuild about 4,500 km of roads this year, more than double the 2,100 km fixed last year. Under a new decentralization system, Ukravtodor is responsible for 50,000 km of roads, and local authorities are responsible another 120,000 km. Local authorities are to receive 35% of revenues going to the Road Fund.
- Speeding people and vehicles across southern Ukraine’s busiest border crossings with Moldova is the goal of a new, two-year program. Funded by the EU, the project will pay for truck scales, vehicle inspection equipment, computer systems and furniture for the posts which will have both countries’ border controls under one roof. Implemented by the UN’s International Organization for Migration, the new facilities will control two border crossing points: Kuchurhan-Pervomaisc, 75 km northwest of Odesa; and Reni-Giurgiulesti, two border towns on the east bank of the Danube. EU Ambassador Hugues Mingarelli said Tuesday: "The flow through these two border crossing points reaches over 3 million persons and 800,000 vehicles per year...We are working for simpler and faster border crossing for travelers and goods."
- Foreign visitors to Kyiv increased by 25% last year, to 1.6 million, according to Andrei Strannikov, head of the city council budget commission. He based this number on the tourist tax, which amounted to almost $1 million last year. After last May’s Eurovision boost, hotel keepers now look forward to 120,000 foreign visitors for the UEFA Champions League, the football final scheduled for the weekend of May 26 in Kyiv.
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UBJ a.m. is reported by UBJ Editor in Chief James Brooke, a former New York Times foreign correspondent and Bloomberg Moscow bureau chief. For comments and story tips, Brooke is reachable at firstname.lastname@example.org