31 December 2010

Farewell to 2010 - Hello New Year 2011

The year 2010 has been another eventful and interesting year in Ukraine. Many will claim that the country is now 'stable' now that a 'strong' President is in total control of the country and he is quick to remove anyone who is seen as in opposition. The scenes a few weeks ago in the parliament of elected members physically fighting amongst each other, reminded us all that Ukraine still has a long way to go to show the rest of the world it is a civilised country ready for foreign investment.

My experience is that 2010 was a difficult year for everyone. There are still many business sectors that may yet experience further difficulties in 2011, e.g Banking and Real Estate.
The government tried to introduce a new tax code which caused protest on the streets in Ukraine.
Tax avoidance and even tax evasion is widely practiced in the business community. Very few people in Ukraine pay the correct level of taxes. Looking towards 2011, I think we will see further difficulties as the Ukraine government always tries to introduce new legislation before it has been fully thought through how it will work in practice.

Lets all hope that 2011 will be a year where people can be confident about making investment decisions without the continual fear of what the government might do next? (We can all hope).

The relationship between Ukraine and the EU appears to be hot and cold and forever changing.
Ukraine still has a long way to go before the EU would be prepared to offer anything like a chance of EU membership. Corruption, Rule of Law, are just two areas that would need to see changes. Those of us who live here know it will be a LONG process to combat corruption.
I would go as far to say that Ukraine will never become a member of the EU during my lifetime.

During 2011 we will see more changes in the business community in Ukraine. The British Business Club will also see changes and I am confident we will see more members and clients taking up opportunities via the BBCU.
I wish everyone a very Happy New Year for 2011

17 December 2010

Fighting in Ukraine Parliament AGAIN

NOTHING can be worse for the image of Ukraine as to see video images of members of parliament fighting like common thugs within the Parliament building. Yesterday these images were seen around the world. The parliamentary opposition were protesting about the legal action now being taken against former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko.

It's difficult for me to explain to people outside Ukraine, that Ukraine is a 'civilised' country.
Its always one step forward and two steps back in Ukraine.

14 December 2010

Offshore Remote Working

Business Process Outsourcing (BPO), Outsourcing, remote working, etc all buzzwords to many people. But is now being taken more seriously. Not just for low cost reasons but also as a smarter way of getting work done.

Sri Lanka is an ideal place for 'remote working', so I will be working from here for the next few months. The BBCU will continue to operate a normal.
The only down side is that I will have to celebrate Christmas and New Year in the sun!!!!

08 December 2010

Only 3 Weeks to go

Yes, just three more weeks and its the year end. In Ukraine most companies use the calendar year end as the financial year end. Its a good time for sorting out the accounts and making sure people get paid. I hope some of our BBCU Members will remember this!

The year 2010 has been interesting for Ukraine. New President, new government, tax code protests. Here is a quick review of the year.

January/February – Presidential elections took place and Victor Yanakovyich was elected the 4th President of Ukraine. Very little business happened as most people claimed they were waiting for the result.
March – VAT refund problems continued. BBCU held a meeting ‘Ukraine under a new President and new government’.
April – BBCU meeting ‘Getting back to Business’
May - New government elected in the UK. Annual ‘Ukraine Investment Summit in London. BBCU meeting ‘Doing Business in Ukraine’
June – Ukraine government announces procedures for VAT Bonds. UK government announces major cut backs in its budget. BBCU meeting ‘Annual Golf Day’.
July – British Prime Minister talks tough to Ambassadors: quote
"I want you to ask yourself every day: 'What am I doing to promote British business?' If you want to keep Britain's great ambassadorial residences, then I want you to show me that every day you are using them relentlessly to open new trade links and to generate new business for Britain."
BBCU held a social event at the ‘Peter Lik Art Gallery’
August – Very hot summer in Ukraine and many people escaped somewhere for a holiday. September – Ukraine government announces visa free travel to Hong Kong (lets hope its good for business). BBCU held a joint meeting with the British Ukrainian Society ‘The world today seen from London and Kyiv’
October – BBCU meeting ‘Property Market in Ukraine. Ukraine government announces intention to sell Ukrtelecom by tender before end of 2010. Telenor announces plan to close its office in Ukraine. BBCU meeting ‘UK Immigration Law and Visas’
November – ‘Doing Business 2011’ (World Bank Report) shows Ukraine at 145th place from 183 countries. EU-Ukraine Summit held and Ukraine is given a ‘road map’ from the EU.
Protests across Ukraine over the new ‘Tax Code’. BBCU meeting ‘Celebrating the British Community in Ukraine’
December – Ukraine President vetoes the new tax code and instructs the government to review it and work with business representatives and unions, but a few days later the quickly revised proposed law is voted through in record speed. They just didn't read anything.

BBCU will hold its Christmas party on 23 December 2010

Hope you all enjoy the build up to the festive season.

07 December 2010

Investing in Ukraine

Lets HOPE that FDI (Foreign Direct Investment) will pick up in Ukraine soon.

The Future of the Euro?

Nigel Farage tells it in his usual way.
What future does the Euro have?

03 December 2010

Russia wins 2018 World Cup bid in Zurich

Vova Putin speaks in English again after Russia wins the World Cup bid for 2018.
He did the same after they won the 2014 Winter Olympics bid.
I'm sure it will be a great success if the project is driven along by him.

01 December 2010

New Ukraine 'Tax Code' is vetoed

Yesterday the Ukrainian President vetoed the new tax code already passed by parliament.
It would appear something new will take place in Ukraine as a result....negotiations with representatives from the electorate. The President has instruction the cabinet of ministers, i.e the Prime Minister to hold talks involving representatives from business and the unions.
Lets hope that it's not just a show and that REAL negotiations can take place and a tax reforms can be introduced that are acceptable to all sides. (But that maybe asking too much also).

It's difficult to imagine any new reforms being ready to be implemented for the planned date of
1 January 2011, but this is Ukraine and the majority of new legislation is usually rushed through without any consultation and very little thought given as to how it will be implemented.

On another note, winter has arrived with the first snow and its getting icy and very cold here.
Many business people I know are already planning LONG winter holidays outside Ukraine or for those who enjoy winter sports they will 'escape' top the mountains in the west of Ukraine.

UIA (Ukraine International Airlines) celebrated their 18th Birthday recently and decided to make a special offer by providing tickets from USD 180 return to over 20 cities around Europe and the Middle East. I hear it has been a great success and many flights are full for the holiday season already.

26 November 2010

Celebrating the British Community in Ukraine

Yesterday the BBCU held a meeting to 'celebrate' the Brits in Ukraine.
Members and a few select guests came to hear presentations and short speeches from 'Brits' who live and work in Ukraine.
The evening was a great success and I still find it amazing when people come and thank me and tell me how they enjoy listening to British people talk. One of our special guests told me "I admire how you British people always see things in a positive way and turn everything into a joke".
I know what he means, I was reminded of that popular phrase that we Brits used many years ago "Mustn't grumble'.

We heard from Martin Nunn - Chief Executive of Whites Communications. Martin gave an excellent presentation 'The reality of Ukraine today'. We were all reminded on how far Ukraine still needs to go to catch up with the rest of Europe but at the same time offers many opportunities.

Glyn Thomas - Amstar Europe, shared with us his thoughts 'The glass is half full' and reminded us about the usual images of England and went on to share a few frustration regarding planning permissions in Ukraine. Peter Burningham told us about 'My life in Kyiv' and shared a very positive outlook on living and working in Ukraine. We would be suprised if Peter and his wife would ever want to leave Ukraine. Jason Crosswaite - Working on the Kyiv airport project, told us why he lives and works in Ukraine although he's only been here a couple of years.
Tony Wood entertained us about how he came to Ukraine from Russia after being impressed by the Orange Revolution back in 2004/5

Interesting that Glyn Thomas reminded us that 'There is no British community' in Ukraine.
What he means is that we do not all live together, we do not all meet together and there are many British people who live here who just do not want to be part of any 'community'.

But once you get to know the Brits who are active in Ukraine and lets face it most are in Kyiv city, you will be entertained and interested by the stories they have to tell you.
Kyiv city really is a 'small village' as the majority of British people living here know each other.

25 November 2010

24 November 2010

We need investment, but we do not need investors

"We need investment, but we do not need investors." Its an old Ukrainain saying.
But tends to ring true for most of us.

This week I will meet with some people from the 'XYZ Regional Administration' who are interested in promoting their region to potential foreign investors. Admirable that they want to do something to start attracting inward investment to their own region in Ukraine.

The good news is that these people have already started to approach things in a different way.
We are already talking about - a one stop shop - for approvals of planning permissions and permits etc and the 'guarantee' that problems will be solved quickly. This is music to my ears. How I wish I could have heard the same many years ago in Ukraine.

Anyhow, I am sure many of the new Governors and Heads of 'Oblast' Councils want to make a good impression on the President by proving they are doing something to attract foreign investors to their region.

So, step forward the British Business Club in Ukraine. We can do many things to help these regions attract investors but as I always explain it is NOT easy. We are in competition with regions in Poland (inside the EU) who are already much more user freindly than Ukrainians can get their head around.

We actually need to start moving to towards the establishment of the first 'Inward Investment Agency' in Ukraine that has the full support of both national and regional governments.
We NEED to be able to convince potential investors that they will NOT have problems in establishing a presence in Ukraine. We need to show that obtaining planning permissions and construction permits are not a nightmare as in the past.

The big dream for most of us is to start attracting those British companies that are already brave enough to relocate and set up new production facilities in Poland. If only we could persude them to take a few steps further into Ukraine, where they would benefit from substantial savings even lower operating costs than in Poland and we would all be happy.

So the process starts this week. I will try to keep you updated.

23 November 2010

Democracy is never tidy and orderly

Well, what a start to the week in Ukraine. The week kicks off with the EU-Ukraine Summit in Brussels. Ukraine is given a carrot and stick by the EU towards visa free travel in the EU (or parts of it). It looks good for the Ukraine leadership, but the EU did not set any dates. Ukraine will be forced to make many changes before the EU leadership agrees to anything.

Meanwhile in Kyiv, thousands are on the streets protesting against the proposed new 'tax code' in Ukraine. The law has already been approved by parliament and is awaiting the signature of the President.

Ukraine certainly needs to introduce a new clear set of tax rules as the current system is one of the most complex and frustrating in the world. Businesses are subject to very close scrutiny by the 'Tax Police' and corruption among its employees is legendary. Moreover, the government needs...no MUST generate more income for the budget. But many people are objecting to the significant increases they will be required to pay from 1 Jan 2011. The current system offers an easy way for 'entrepreneurs' to pay tax. In Ukraine we have a system call the PE (Private Entrepreneur) system. It was designed to help small business owners to pay tax on a low level of turnover/profit. One of the forms of the PE system allows the tax payer to make a fixed payment of just UAH 200 (GBP16) each month. Provided the turnover of the business is less that UAH 300,000 (GBP 24000) per year.
If we had such a system in the United Kingdom, there would be thousands of people on the streets jumping for joy.

The new tax code (By the way no one outside government has been allowed to see it yet, so everything is based on leaks and inside information) proposes to increase the PE tax payments by three times plus a fixed payment to the governemnt pension fund. The total after all increases would be about UAH 840 (GBP 67) per month for each entrepreneur. Many people from outside Ukraine would say "So whats the problem? everyone should pay tax".
YES, but its a 320 percent increase.

The people protesting on the streets on Kyiv today claim that this new tax will force them out of business. Really? The real reason I suspect so many are unhappy is that the government is not hitting its so called friends in big business with any significant tax increases. To be fair, the government are claiming they are trying to make things easier for everyone to pay tax and this is understandable.

Maybe the good thing about all these protests is that it clearly shows that a small amount of freedom and democracy is still alive and kicking in Ukraine, unlike a certain country to the north where the governemtn comes down hard on anyone that disagrees with them.

Democracy will never be right for those who see it as something that gets in the way of order and control. So many are claiming that the new government and new President in Ukraine have at least brought 'order and stability' to the country. Democracy may still be a problem for them.

21 November 2010

The Future of the Euro zone

Foreign British Secretary William Hague sparked a diplomatic row yesterday by suggesting that the Irish debt crisis could lead to the total disintegration of the euro.

Asked if he thought that Ireland’s crippled banks could cause the collapse of the EU currency, the Foreign Secretary gave a chilling two-word answer: ‘Who knows?

It is so interesting to read the 'readers comments', one of the great advantages of newspapers on-line:

Collapse of the Euro, if it happens it'll be the best news I've heard in ages. Then all we need is for the EU to go belly up and we'll be quids in.

The collapse of the euro today, the collapse of the eu tomorrow - best thing that could ever happen!

At last somebody with some sense,. Anyone can see the Euro is bringing down all those Countries that deal in it. Why do they not admit it has failed and everybody go back to there own Currencies and deal with there own finances. We never had this problem before. And now they will give the Irsh a bail out at a price that will hurt them .

I would personally like to see the Euro fail and take the EU down with it, as none of our politicians have the cojones to ask the general public if we want to be in the undemocratic and failing EUSSR

No British Government, has ever been given Consent either to join the EU, or to import Millions of Foreign Nationals.

Go William Go, lets do all we can as a country to make damn sure the wretched currency fails and all the EUSSR states with it!

Bring it on, we can get back our borders, our laws, our rights, we can ditch the YUMAN wrongs act, my God we can fly the Union Jack and not be sued, we can have a BRITSH ONLY pasport, and perhaps, only perhaps start to feel British again.

Whoo hooo lets go Willy!

Read all here: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1331518/William-Hague-doubts-survival-euro-Irish-bailout-talks-continue.html

20 November 2010

EU-Ukraine Summit

The 14th EU-Ukraine Summit takes place in Brussels on 22 November. A press release said the leaders would review the reform agenda including respect for common values such as human rights, democratic principles and the rule of law. They will stress in particular the importance of a free media. On the economic side, the leaders’ discussions will encompass efforts to improve macro-economic stability, to combat corruption and improve the business and investment climate.

Commenting on the eve of the Summit, President of the European Council Herman Van Rompuy said: “Reform in Ukraine and the EU-Ukraine bilateral relationship will be at the top of the agenda. We will welcome the positive steps taken by Ukraine particularly in the economic and energy sphere. We look to Ukraine’s leadership to increase the reform momentum in these areas and as regards respect for human rights, the rule of law and democratic principles.”

President Barroso said: “Ukraine is a key partner for the EU and an important regional player. The ambitious agenda of this Summit reflects our dynamic and intense relationship. I am pleased that we will agree on an Action Plan towards the establishment of a visa free regime for Ukraine and on a Protocol which gives Ukraine access to EU programmes. These are two concrete examples of the EU's continued engagement with Ukraine.”

The agenda will include sectoral cooperation in areas as diverse as energy, transport and justice, liberty and security. In the energy sector the leaders will welcome Ukraine’s imminent accession to the Energy Community. On the issue of mobility, the leaders will discuss the next steps in the visa dialogue aiming at establishing a visa free regime for short stay travel as a long term perspective.

See: http://enpi-info.eu/maineast.php?id=23234&id_type=1&lang_id=450

19 November 2010

Is there any other way?

The world wide crisis has certainly taken its toll on a great many countries around the world.
In fact you could say have any countries NOT been affected by the downturn in business?.

You would think that in 2010 a few of the so called 'developed economies' would be seeing signs of recovery and optimism. But there are few signs showing recovery. Oh, there will be a few governements claiming an increase in GDP this year, but if you asked the average citizen in the street in one of these countries they would still be complaining about the state of the economy.

Maybe its going to take a long time to recover from the crisis. Period. In the 21st century most of us thought that 'by now' we should all be enjoying life and that we should have 'sorted' all these blips in the economies of our countries. What happened? Every country is struggling right now (or are they? is there some secret country tucked away where all the people are happy?)

The British are becoming the world leaders at complaining, yet this week we had Lord Young telling us that 'We have never had it so good" (Ok he is getting on a bit). He was referring to the low interest rates that people should be enjoying and their low mortgage repayments etc.

In Ukraine it's probably much WORSE than we know, as this country has a great tradition of not telling people what is really going on. Plus the country does not have a media that is use to telling it like it is or investigating things in detail (The journalists are usually too afraid).

So, as winter is approaching the question is.....is Christmas going to be a happy one. Perhaps the New Year is definitely something to look forward to. Oh yes, next year is going to be much better.
Is there any other way?

18 November 2010

Leopards - Spots - Never Change

I am usually a very positive person. I always try to think positive and see the bright side of life. But recent events in Ukraine are making this difficult to maintain. Ukrainains are protesting outside parliament about the new 'tax code' which has just been approved by a majority in the parliament today. The next step is to wait for the sign off by the President.

Many...no ALMOST ALL Ukrainians will tell you they do not like paying taxes purely because 'they will steal it'. They are referring to their own government and how many people in government will find ways of diverting money to projects and schemes that will be of personal benefit to themselves and or their families.

So, at a time when people are discussing the impact of the new tax code in Ukraine a story hits the headlines about a case of 'they ARE stealing it'. (Although it has not appeared in the English language media yet. Here it is:

The Klyuyev brothers are well known business people in Ukraine. Andriy Klyuyev is currently - First Deputy Prime Minister.
Step forward the well known and trusted 'Ukrainska Pravda' (Ukrainian Truth) web site. They claim and show documents to support their findings that Klyuyev has been involved during the past few weeks in making sure that USD 370 million in 'State Subsidies' were allocated to TWO companies owned by 'offshore companies' but later found to be controlled by the Klyuyev brothers. The full story can be seen here in Ukrainian (But using Google Translate will help):

Lets see what happens during the next few weeks if anything concerning this story.
This is Ukraine and reporters tend to disappear when investigations like this are announced.

How on earth can ANYONE stay positive about Ukraine when this kind of theft continues within the government. But then again, I am sure they will claim everything is 'normal' and nothing is illegal. .......Sigh.

17 November 2010

Ukraine & EU - Summit 22 November 2010

Next week the President of Ukraine will meet with some of the EU Leaders to discuss among many things the proposed DFTA (Deep Free Trade Agreement) between Ukraine and the EU. Plus the possibility of visa free travel for Ukrainians across the EU.

Questions I think people should be asking about Ukraine and the EU:

1. Does the EU….REALLY want Ukraine to be part of the club?
2. Do they REALLY want to offer visa free travel to Ukrainian citizens?
3. Do the Ukrainians REALLY understand the big opportunity this offers them
(Deep Free Trade Agreement)?
4. When will the EU have its accounts signed off by the auditors?
Until such time do not lecture any other countries or zones about corruption.
5. Why would Ukraine REALLY want to get involved in all these new ideas about ‘The Rule of Law’ etc?
6. If one day the EU finally says to Ukraine “Sorry but we do not want you”,
Do people REALLY think Ukraine would be upset and worried about this?

Politics is such a big game.

Doing Business 2011 – Making a Difference for Entrepreneurs

The latest World Bank report on the ease of doing business in countries around the world has no surprises for the top ten countries:

  1. Singapore
  2. Hong Kong (Ex British now China)
  3. New Zealand
  4. United Kingdom
  5. USA
  6. Denmark
  7. Canada
  8. Norway
  9. Ireland
  10. Australia

Ukraine? – 145th from the list of 183 countries surveyed.

Quick Summary Table for Ukraine (1 is the best....183 is the worst)

Starting a Business 118

Dealing with Permits 179

Registering Property 164

Protecting Investors 109

Paying Taxes 181

Trading Across Borders 139

Closing a Business 150

Things are not getting much easier in Ukraine?

See BBCU web site for link to the report

16 November 2010

Ukraine President sacks the Mayor of Kyiv……sort of

Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych has sacked the head of Kyiv's city government, Leonid Chernovetsky, the president's office said on Tuesday.

The president's decree named his ally Oleksander Popov as the capital's new chief executive, but gave no reason.

Yanukovich has been consolidating power since his election in February and Chernovetsky, 58, has in the past sided with former president Viktor Yushchenko, Yanukovych's opponent.

Chernovetsky has run the city of 3 million since 2006 and made headlines by releasing music videos, suggesting that business leaders pay to meet him and saying he would travel into space with his cat.

Chernovetsky had a controlling stake in the Ukrainian bank Pravex until 2008, when Italy's Intesa SanPaolo bought the bank for $750 million.

In line with Ukrainian legislation, Chernovetsky retains the post of the head of Kyiv city council. The Kyiv government has three Eurobonds outstanding, worth a total of $700 million.

(Above from the Kyiv Post)

Just like the Russian President fired the Mayor of Moscow recently, now the same happens here. What next many people begin to wonder?
At least the Mayor of Kyiv was elected by the people.
But the government claims he is STILL the peoples Mayor of Kyiv
The plot gets thicker in Ukraine.

From a different angle........

I usually stay late in the office. I am always the last to leave. Call me a workaholic or whatever it's a sad practice I started many years ago.
Anyhow, tonight I decided to do something I have not done before. I opened a bottle of wine (ah..I have done that many times before), but I then decided to sit in my assistants chair at her desk. I do not know why but I just did.

I began to see how things look from her perspective. Many notes, stickers, reminders, calenders just to make sure the 'pain the the arse' (aka me) was taken care of and he was reminded about things in a timely manner. But I also saw how things look from where she sits each and everyday.
Looking at my personal bookshelf everyday for example and the 'crap' that I have collected over the years. Maybe also seeing the books that are considered 'current' in my life, but maybe not.
I began to see how she may see things that I do not see everyday. Photos of my daughters, old knicknacks, books, small 'British flags' and lots of garbage that probably represents "ME".

I started to wonder "Is this what she thinks of me?". I then went to look at some of the books on the shelves in front of her desk. The books I found include:
1. A dictionary of Idioms
2. Russian Phrasebook
3. The little book of lager (don't ask)
4. Sagittarious (Sun sign guides)
5. The little book of curry
6. The Gospel of John
7. You don't need experience if you've got attitude.
8. A simple guide to Russian
9. Control stress and stop worrying.
10. Winning Words - Quotations to Uplift, Inspire, Motivate and Delight
11. Conducting Business in Ukraine
12. New Testament and Psalms
13. One of those secure wooden books, I bought in Sri Lanka, that is designed to hide money, but very difficult to open and looks like a normal book and probably has some money inside

There are also lots of ornaments on the book shelf like "The worlds greatest dad"from my kids, plus one of those 'Thirst Aid' helmets that you win for being the fastest drinker in one of those pub competitions for drinking a lot of beer faster than anyone else. Sad but true. Plus lots of other crap. I began to think "This is how she sees me" and maybe "This is how other people see me".

Lesson: Be careful what you keep on your office bookshelves if anything. It sends out a message who you are.

Book shelf needs to be replenished tomorrow.

12 November 2010

11th hour on the 11th day

Today 11th November was one of those days when I felt very proud to be British.
Wearing a poppy in my jacket lapel (purchased via the British Embassy), it was a symbol of 'something'. I say 'something', because the majority of Ukrainains have no idea why a foreign man would want to wear a 'flower' and a paper one at that while walking around the city even conducting formal business meetings with said paper flower in lapel.

I was happy to explain to the many people who enquired why I was sporting this 'flower'.
Different culture, different reasons. One man brought me down to earth when he asked (and I think he already knew the answer) 'How many British soldiers died in the 'Great Patriot War'
(aka - World War II) and for that matter how many in the First World War.
I had to point out that I knew full well that the Soviet Union had suffered far many more millions in dead soldiers than the British. BUT, numbers is not what its all about.

I also took great pride in explaining our Royal British Legion system and how the money raised via charity would be used to good effect. As usual the stories of how Ukrainains would NEVER trust anyone who raised money for charity knowing that the money would never get to the correct people was as normal.

But in the United Kingdom thats another thing we can be proud of. We can usually count of any money raised for a good cause WILL get through to where it needs to be.

The 11th of November will also be a day to remember those who have given their lives in the name of freedom and democracy. Not just in the two World Wars but also the Falklands conflict, Northern Ireland, Iraq and Afghanistan and any others I have forgotten.

As a child I grew up around men who had fought as soldiers in World War 2 and I remember listening to the real life stories at first hand as to what they did during those difficult times.
As children we took it for granted that almost all the men in our village had been involved in the war. I remember our next door neighbour was a man who had been shot in the legs during the war in Burma. I also remember the sad situation of children at our school sometimes mocking the man who walked past our school everyday who obviously suffered from 'shell shock' after the 2nd world war. As children they did not know until the headmaster brought this to everyones attention in assembly the next day. Shame on those kids. It was another part of the learning process and the horrors of war.

I have celebrated the 11th November in many ways, first as a child, then later as a boy soldier at the age of 16 and then as an adult soldier on many occasions. There are certain things that only the British can do well and the remembrance day ceremony at the cenotaph in Whitehall in London is one of those ocassions which you know is very much a British thing.

However, we all know that people who choose to live in Britain are very lucky in that they are provided with something called' freedom of expression'. The freedom and ability to say what you want without fear of any actions from the state.

Well today in London we saw people of 'Muslim' faith exercising that freedom by claiming that 'British Soldiers Burn in Hell'. Under British laws they have every right to express their opinions.
(God only knows how they would get away with this in any other country). But this kind of action from people who set out to upset the British public are a great cause for concern. If the famously passive great British public decide to rise up against the Muslim community in England please do not be surprised by their actions. I for one would not be.

Perhaps the British public need to wake up and think..'What makes us great any longer?'
See Daily Mail story

10 November 2010

Kyiv City Council are Corporate Raiders?

According to a recent article you do not only have to fear private sector corporate raiders in Ukraine. The local government will perform the same acts to get its hands on assets it desires and to hell with foreign investors.

see the article click here

One Step Back and.........Another Step Back

A recent report in the Kyiv Post tells us about Brian Mefford who acted as an election observer in the city of Odessa on election day 31st October 2010.
Read what he says.......

"During Ukraine’s Oct. 31 local elections, I served as an international election observer on behalf of the Committee for Open Democracy The Committe for Open Democracy was the largest accredited observation mission from abroad with 96 observers from 14 countries.We focused our efforts on Odesa (Odessa) due to its history of problematic and competitive elections.

For example, the 2002 election results there were later overturned by the courts due to fraud and use of administrative resources. Our official statement criticized the intentionally slow vote counting process, hostility to some international observers, use of administrative resources, and wide scale use of technical parties (parties that exist only on paper) to staff commissions.Simply put, the Odesa election was a setback for democracy and free elections in Ukraine.The oldest and largest domestic observation organization, the Committee of Voters of Ukraine, characterized the Odesa election as “chaotic” and resembling “the 2004 presidential election.” They added that the Odesa election “represents a big step backwards.”

Well there you go again in Odesa Ukraine.

See the full article here:

09 November 2010

Things are getting better.....Really?

Let slook at the property market in the UK, always a good guide for the health of the economy.
What does the RICS tell us:

Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors will release data for housing survey for the month of October. House prices in England and Wales suffered their sharpest fall last month since May 2009. The RICS house price index dropped to -36 in the three months to September from -32 in the three months to August. RICS spokesperson Ian Perry said: "The fresh influx of property to the market combined with a lack of buyers remains the key problem affecting the sector.”
The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors' survey is expected to show a further weakening in house prices, in line with other recent data suggest-ing the housing market is continuing to weaken fast after a modest recovery last year.

Not good is it...

Step forward Ukraine...According to Ukraine Prime Minister Azarov:

VIENNA, Nov 8 (Reuters) - After a terrible 2009, Ukraine's economy will grow five percent in 2010, higher than earlier government predictions, and then another five to ten percent next year, the prime minister said in an interview on Nov. 8.

"The growth in gross domestic product will be about five percent this year. Next year the minimal growth we see is five percent. At maximum, we'd get to around 10 percent," Mykola Azarov told Reuters in an interview during a visit to Vienna.

Really? Ukraine's economy will grow by 5% in 2010.?

I hate being a negative person put right now all the evidence points in another direction about Ukraines economy. Each week I meet bankers, lawyers, accountants, and many people involved in 'making things'. I have yet to meet one of these people who can tell me that the economy is looking good for them. I heard one banker quote this last week:
"The sector (banking) is on a life support machine and very soon it will flat line"

Draw your own conclusions

06 November 2010


HSBC as it is commonly known is thinking about leaving London and setting up its HQ in another country. HSBC is the UKs largest bank in terms of market value and did not need any help from the government during the financial crisis. Interesting? Where would it go I wonder....China?

See: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/business/news/hsbc-in-new-threat-to-leave-the-uk-over-osborne-banking-levy-2126760.html

Great Concern about recent events in Ukraine

It has always been difficult trying to convince inward investors that it’s safe to put their money into Ukraine property/companies/projects etc.

Events this week in Ukraine, if they are found to be accurate and true, are a cause for great concern about the climate for inward investment into the country.

To highlight these concerns let me turn things around and demonstrate how serious the situation really is. Imagine that a British company had invested say GBP 100 million into developing a leisure resort in Majorca, Spain. The investment proved successful and the resort employed over 1500 people and was a major contributor to local taxes and was a positive benefit for the Spanish economy. Imagine that the Spanish tax authorities then suspected the mayor of Majorca has been stealing money from state funds, so to find out what was happening they send in 100 armed security police together with the state security service and confiscate computers, files, all digital information and cause great stress to the employees of the resort complex. All this without any prior warning and an assumption that the resort owners must be doing something illegal. The British owners of the resort are also the owners of well known newspapers in London. By pure coincidence articles had recently appeared in these newspapers which criticized the Spanish government. (Obviously this kind of situation would never occur inside the European Union)

Well, this IS what happened this week in Alushta, Crimea. (Replace above instead of Majorca, Spain.)
Alexander Lebedev and his son Evgeny Lebedev, who is a British citizen and lives in London. Invested hundreds of millions into the Alushta complex and is one of the best resorts on the Crimean peninsular in Ukraine.

Alexander Lebedev is one of the richest men in Russia and faced a similar stressful situation in Moscow a few days earlier when his bank was raided by Russian authorities.

See: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/moscow-police-criticised-for-circus-raid-on-lebedevs-bank-2123558.html

See: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/russia/8114216/Alexander-Lebedevs-hotel-raided-in-Ukraine.html

See: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/independent-owners-hotel-is-raided-in-row-over-charity-fund-2126735.html

Maybe the Ukrainian authorities claim to have good reason to storm a hotel resort/complex looking for evidence related to a suspected crime, but it clearly demonstrates that here in Ukraine they operate on a totally different wave length when compared to civilised countries in the European Union.

When British people read about this in British national newspapers, how on earth can I start to defend any of the actions taken by the Ukrainian authorities?
How can I claim that it’s safe to invest in Ukraine and you do not have to worry about any actions from the state?

Maybe the Ukrainians think it’s OK to act in this way as the owners of the resort are just ‘Russians’?

The situation in Ukraine is not looking good for investors. This is very sad news.

05 November 2010

Its not the voting but the counting that matters....

Take FIVE days in a democratic civilised developed nation to count the votes after an election and you would expect that the public would be wondering what monkey business the government is up to. But in Ukraine no one appears to care. As if their voices would be heard anyhow?
How on earth can it take five days to count the votes? More like it takes five days to make sure the desired result is announced. Anyhow the media are not happy, or should I say the media who are not afraid to say so are not happy.

The Economist
see: http://www.economist.com/node/17421444?story_id=17421444

Kyiv Post

01 November 2010

Ukraine Local Elections - Observations

It would appear that the turnout in most of the regions has been very low.
Electoral commissions have been quick to point out that 'everything has gone smoothly'.
The Council of Europe observers even reported: "In general the elections were conducted in a calm and peaceful atmosphere,".

However local observer groups like OPORA are reported to claim: "There have been so many violations that we cannot say that it was democratic, fair and open,".

No suprises that the Party of the Regions (POR) claim to have done well and are happy with the results. Lets be honest...IS ANYONE in Ukraine suprised that the POR did well?
It was a given from the start. The jokes circulating in Kyiv include: "I didn't vote, I didn't even leave the apartment, but I bet the POR managed to get my vote some how".

We all wait the official results with a little interest. APATHY is the word I would apply to these elections. People were just not so interested. Very sad, but that's democracy for you or....mmmnnn is it?

The State of the Property Market(s) Just want to get this off my chest

It would appear that things are not looking good for property owners or buyers in the UK.
According to the International Business Times:

U.K. house prices recorded their largest fall since January 2009 in October signaling that the property market is cooling fast. The average cost of a
home dropped 0.9 percent as compared to the previous month dip of 0.4%. The average cost was at 156,200 pounds ($248,764) in October,
marking the fourth month of falling prices.
Buyers demand also fell 2 percent, while the number of homes for sale rose 1.9 percent. The number of home loans approved also stood about half
that seen at the peak of the boom in 2007.
The figures, were released soon after the latest Bank of England statistics which showed that September U.K. mortgage approvals fell, suggesting
that U.K. housing market is still fragile and might not be ready for another quantitative easing (QE) planned to be implemented by the national bank.
Mortgage approvals were little changed at 47,474 in September more than the economist forecasted.
Even Nationwide Building Society recently said that U.K. house prices fell to an eight- month low in October. Obtaining a mortgage will get even
more difficult after the new regulation kicks in. First time buyers will also face difficulties as lenders make it more difficult by asking for larger
deposits. Even the Bank of England have raised concerns over the increased number of borrowers that are unable to pay back their mortgage.
Despite strong economic growth between July and September, there are still concerns that the last month's government spending cuts may further
hit consumer confidence, making the recovery fragile.

What about Ukraine? - I would like to make a very clear and loud statement to the many property developers and owners in Ukraine, particularly in the city of Kyiv.

You would think it was easy being a BUYER in Ukraine when you are looking to buy land or a house. Plus when you do not need a mortgage. But no this is Ukraine, the owners/developers are still dreaming about selling property at higher prices. The banks are NOT providing mortgages unless a client has a large cash deposit and is prepared to pay very high interest on the loan.

There have been very few property sales in Ukraine during 2010. DO NOT let any agency or others involved in property tell you otherwise.
In fact come to think of it, winter is now fast approaching. My advice is DO NOT buy any property in Ukraine until Spring 2011

31 October 2010

Should governments be involved in 'Business Support'?

The British government has announced that it will close the network of 'Business Links' throughout the country to help save money. Plus they also announced the closure of the 'Regional Development Agencies' from 2012. The Business link network was designed to help businesses (mainly small businesses) through help/advice/training/information etc.
The RDA's were set up in 1999 by the then Labour government to help focus investment on projects in the nine EU regions of England.

The British government will save approximately GBP 2 billion per annum by axing the RDA's.
It was a good idea at the time to help each region 'do its own thing', although they reported to central government. But like most government backed organisations they eventually lacked focus an became overstaffed. The salaries paid to the senior staff were much higher than in the private sector. Moreover the RDA's also obtained funding from the EU for regional projects.
Most of this EU funding was wasted in my opinion.

Back in August this year the Tax Payers Alliance developed a case for abolishing the RDA's.
See: http://tpa.typepad.com/home/files/structure_of_government_3_the_case_for_abolishing_rdas_e.pdf

Anyhow, the British government has gone ahead and decided to close these organisations.
However, I note that the RDA's will be replaced by something called an LEP -Local Enterprise Partnership. (I get the feeling we have been there before).

The United Kingdom is a so called developed economy so should governments be involved in 'business support' and if so to what level?
You would think that today the UK needs more business support than ever before to recover from the crisis. Governments will always toy around with different support structures to show how they intend to help the private sector but I think the best thing would be for government to stay out of too much interference in private sector business. In the UK we have well established Chambers of Commerce which provide a whole range of services to its members. These Chambers have seen many different government initatives come and go over the years, but the Chambers of Commerce still exist and are better managed and leaner than any government 'quango'.

However, in a developing economy like Ukraine I think there is a need for as much business support as possible during the next 5-10 years and maybe longer.

30 October 2010

Local Elections in Ukraine - Tomorrow

On Sunday 31st October 2010 the Ukraine electorate will be given their chance to vote in the local elections. These are the elections for Mayors in major cities, local town/village councils and also Oblast (Regional) Councils.

With many business people complaining about the proposed introduction of a new 'Tax Code' in Ukraine, these elections will be interesting. It will be a test of the current popularity of the Party of the Regions and a reflection on the new President.

The BBCU does not support any of the political parties in Ukraine. We like to concentrate on business issues only. However, the pace of recovery in Ukraine is still very slow and we do not need any further setbacks which might contribute to keeping investors away.

29 October 2010

How Many more Irish pubs do we need in Kyiv?

Not one for being negative about business, but how many more Irish Pubs do we need in Kyiv?
We now have:

O'Briens Pub
Golden Gate Pub
Lucky Pub
O'Connors Pub
Rosey O'Gradys Pub
Belfast Pub

Plus I'm sure there is another one on the left bank of the river.
I suppose its a sign of the times, when they are all still busy and making money from providing good service. Whatever happened to that great place called a "British Pub'?
Replies encouraged.

When will Common Sense Return?

We hear a lot of talk about how our two countries like to work together.
But this week I again witnessed a situation where fear and 'PCness' (Maybe I have invented a new word)stopped things from happening in the normal way.
I will not name any one but here is the scene.

I introduce a Ukraine Government Minister to a representative of the British Embassy.
Ukraine Government Minister says he intends to visit the UK and asks if same representative can provide help in making an application for a Visa?

Common Sense you might think? Maybe I have lived in Ukraine too long because I also think its a practical way to approach the situation. But representatives from my own embassy are not allowed to provide 'help' or 'advice' to people who are looking to make application for a visa. Knowing this I stepped in and explained to the Minister, that it was not possible. But we the BBCU would be happy to help. It was an easy escape for my freind from the British Embassy.
Its a well known fact that British Embassy employees and even UK Visa/UKBA staff are just not allowed to provide any help to people making a visa application.

Its a crazy world. I cannot help but think that if this Government Minister had approached a member of another embassy based in Kyiv, he may have received a very different reception which would have started to a warmer relationship with that country.

Maybe I miss the old days when just about everything was based on good old common sense.

My word is my bond

This week I attended a special meeting at the Belgravia Business Club in Kyiv.
The VIP guest was Leonid Kravchuk, the first President of Ukraine, plus a clutch of invited ambassadors and other interesting characters.

It was refreshing to hear Leonid Kravchuk talk about the importance of 'Gentlemens Agreements'. Quote:"We can have all the business laws you need but the most important thing is that people do what they agreed to do."

Many people talked about the good example provided by 'Gentlemens Clubs' in London.
(The two Brits present could not help but smile...as we were thinking about another kind of 'Gentlemens Club')

But its good to hear that many people still regard the UK as a place where we provide good examples of how to do things correctly both in business and in everyday life.
Like most of the people present at the meeting, I can only hope that Belgravia Business Club attracts members who are honest and can provide leadership examples in how to do business in Ukraine.

The British Business Club will soon be announcing a special offer to help BBCU members take part in the Belgravia Club.

25 October 2010

Doing Business in Ukraine vs United Kingdom

Many people ask me the question “What’s it like doing business in Ukraine compared to the UK?”
My light hearted reply is sometimes too quick, like “For whom?”…”Me or Ukrainians?”

But seriously I like to look at the question from all sides. i.e. a British person/company doing business in Ukraine and secondly Ukrainians doing business in Ukraine and comparing it to the UK. Let’s look at each one.

British person/company doing business in Ukraine:
1. Payment systems – Just about all business is conducted on up front or advance payments, none of the 30 day plus credit nonsense. A big plus for cash flow.
2. Customers/Clients don’t really expect too much from you as they have little experience of ‘customer service’.

1. Setting up a business in Ukraine is NOT easy
2. Banking system in Ukraine. The banks are still unpaid agents for the government/tax authority. Banks are too afraid to do anything unless it meets with the demands from the Government/Central Bank of Ukraine et al.
3. The Ukraine Government assumes that it owns all the money circulating in the economy.
4. Accountants in Ukraine. They’re also secret agents for the Tax Authority. But they do not know they are performing this free service.
5. Significant Changes in the Legal System are frequent (maybe monthly)
6. Corruption. Most people in both public and private sectors expect to be “Paid Something’ for their troubles in addition to their salary.
7. Black Economy. – Maybe as much as 50 percent of all business is conducted in the ‘black economy’.
8. Rule of Law and the Legal System. It’s a big joke.
9. Service. Most people/businesses provide Bad Customer Service

Ukrainians doing business in Ukraine:
1. Payments system…..same as above.
2. Most people/businesses like to be paid in CASH
3. Customers/Clients…same as above

1. Tax avoidance and even tax evasion are a part of daily life.
2. Banking system in Ukraine….same as above
3. The Ukraine Government…same as above.
4. Accountants in Ukraine…same as above.
5. Significant Changes in the Legal System……same as above.
6. Corruption…….same as above
7. Black Economy. …..same as above
8. Rule of Law….same as above
9. Service…..same as above

Comparing it to the UK- (In the UK its like this..)
1. Customers/Clients DEMAND too much
2. They want 30 days plus free credit on all goods and services supplied
3. Cash Flow is a big problem for most businesses in the UK
4. Businesses are afraid to do anything due to fear of Health & Safety Legislation
5. Employees get paid far too much for what they do

1. Its easy to set up a business in the UK
2. As a business you control all the money in your accounts (If you have any).
3. The Rule of Law in the UK is one of the best examples to the rest of the world.

Well there you go…
One day we can look at this in a more serious way. LOL

22 October 2010

BBCU Meeting 21 October 2010 - Visa's

We held a very successful BBCU meeting last night here in Kyiv.
It was a special meeting to discuss - 'UK Immigration Law & Visa's'
Our guest speakers from London law firm - Davidson Morris, were Anne Morris and Adam Hoefel.
Anne provided an excellent presentation to bring everyone up to date with the latest and proposed further changes in UK Immigration legislation and the new 'Tier' system of Visa's for entry into the UK for Non-EU citizens.

I was not suprised when Anne informed us that the main reason for visa rejections by the FCO/UK Visas was due to the simple fact that the applicants failed to provide enough information in the Visa application process. Even 'professional people' were guilty of failing to provide the required basic information.

What did suprise me is that even in our audience there were not so many people who know about the VIP service for Visa Applicants, nor did people know much about the many different types of Visas that can be obtained. Far too many people just apply for the normal 'Tourist Visa' even when going on a long term business trip.

As expected we had many questions from our members and guests on a whole range of issues.
The new 'English Language Ability' condition to be introduced for those seeking settlement in the UK is going to be interesting as we hear that it could already be the subject of a Human Rights case.

The BBCU can only provide advice/help/assistance on Visa matters to BBCU MEMBERS, we cannot provide a free advice service to anyone seeking a visa...sorry.

19 October 2010

Telenor to close Ukraine office

Sad news that the official closure of Norwegian company Telenor in Ukraine has been announced. The company will close its representative office in Ukraine by the end of 2010.

Sad news for the BBCU in that we loose a client/member and an association with a great team of people.

The Ukraine business community know only too well the long long saga of the conflict between Telenor and 'a Russian company' (I do not want any legal action) concerning the ownership and control of Ukraines largest mobile phone operator - Kyivstar.

Plus the Head of the Telenor Representative office in Ukraine - Mr Trond Moe was well known and active in the business community. I must say that visiting the Telenor office in Kyiv city centre was an example to any so called 'modern thinking' company. They have one of those 'minimalist' offices, where very little paperwork is produced and the design and office furniture is classic 'scandanavian style. The team at Telenor are smart people.

We wish Trond and his team all the best for the future and we also hear that Telenor may offer jobs to those who are interesting in working for Telenor outside Ukraine. Not many companies would do that. Telenor has been and probably always will be a good example of how business is conducted in Norway.

17 October 2010

Ukraine to sell Ukrtelecom by tender on 28 December 2010

It has been a bit late in coming but at last it would appear that the Ukraine state telephone company - Ukrtelecom, will be sold by the end of the year.
Many will say that it should have been sold years before when there was plenty of interest in telecom companies.

The government State Property Fund intends to raise approximately UAH 10.1billion (USD 1.3billion) but many restrictions have already been announced to try and keep the assets in 'Ukrainian hands' and not allow a foreign investor to get hold of the company.

The company does not perform so well. Probably due to the fact that it is a state company.
A few years ago a well connected friend told me that the reason why Ukrtelecom failed to make much profit is due to the fact that the directors were too busy planning schemes to steal money from the company. Many a true word......

On inspection of our most recent home telephone bill from Ukrtelecom, I notice it was the grand total of UAH 157 for one month (Thats about GBP12.50) The most expensive call on the list was a 4 minute call I made to Sri Lanka which cost me UAH 15.21 (GBP1.20). Even in business most companies use mobile phones and unfortunately Ukrtelecom is not one of the major players in the mobile market. But the jewel in the crown is that Ukrtelecom is the only company in Ukraine that has a 3G license, so the bidder(s) have something to aim for.

Whoever becomes the successful bidder, lets hope they decide to take Ukrtelecom forward and develop the business into a real player in the market. One idea would be to bring fixed line telecoms to many Ukrainians who still do not have a fixed line to their homes. There are many people living in villages who started using mobile phones before seeing any fixed line phones.
Plus it would be a great advantage if the vast majority of Ukrainians could get connected to the internet via Ukrtelecom, or perhaps I am just dreaming too much.
The vast majority of internet users are still based around the capital Kyiv and the other five major cities.

See: http://www.kyivpost.com/news/business/bus_general/detail/86382/

BBCU Discusion Group on Linked In

We have a group of people who share discussions via Linked In.
Do you think we should organise a special face to face meeting for this group?
see: http://polls.linkedin.com/p/106684/eyecf

To sign up to our group see: http://www.bbcu.com.ua

Does the UK need an Immigration Cap?

According to an article in the Daily Telegraph, one of the UK governments own advisory committees claims that the UK Immigration restrictions are already causing problems for UK firms. What I find most interesting are the comments from DT readers on-line.
See the article here: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/jobs/8068745/Immigration-cap-is-bad-for-UK-business-say-government-advisors.html#dsq-content

Who are the Members of this Professional and Business Services Group?
I list them here:

Sir Andrew Cahn, Chief Executive, UK Trade and Investment
Andi Case, Chief Executive, Clarksons PLC
David Cheyne, Senior Partner, Linklaters LLP
Mark Dawkins, Managing Partner, Simmons and Simmons
Philip Dilley, Chairman, Arup
John Griffith-Jones, Chairman and Senior Partner, KPMG LLP
Steve Ingham, Chief Executive, Michael Page
Laurence Longe, National Managing Partner, Baker Tilly
Michael Mainelli, Chief Executive, Z/Yen
Chris Mullen, Senior Partner, Pinsent Masons
Stuart Popham, Senior Partner, Clifford Chance LLP
Ian Powell, Senior Partner, PricewaterhouseCoopers
Vicky Pryce, Chief Economic Adviser and Director-General of Economics, BIS
Babloo Ramamurthy, Towers Watson, Regional Manager, Europe, Middle East & Africa
Christopher Satterthwaite, Chief Executive, Chime Communications
Nick Shepherd, Managing Partner, Drivers Jonas Deloitte
Ken Shuttleworth, Senior Partner, Make Architects
Jonathan Taylor, Managing Director of Financial Services, HM Treasury
Susan Taylor-Martin, Managing Director and Senior Company Officer, UK and Ireland, Thomson Reuters
Simon Whitehouse, Managing Director, Management Consulting–Financial Services, Accenture

16 October 2010

British Humour

The British Daily Telegraph newspaper has recently published a book containing some of the best reader’s letters they received but never published. They are a great example of British humour at its best and in many ways I think those of us who read newspapers on line, tend to look at the readers comments with more interest than the news article.
Although it is very much a ‘British Thing’, many other nations still fail to understand our humour. Here are some of them. Enjoy

In praise of progress
SIR – My first thought on seeing your headline, “Pupils to be taught about sex at seven” was, “What, in the morning?” When I was a child, the school day began with prayer. But you can’t stop progress.
Peter Homer, Highworth, Wiltshire

SIR – I’ve often wondered whether Britain’s education system is in a state of decline. Then I visited Google and started to type, “Can I get…”. Before I finished my query the first suggested search in the drop-down list appeared: “Can I get pregnant from a dog?”. Now I know.
Robin Whiting, Castle Rising, Norfolk

SIR – A current West Sussex NHS advertisement on the back of a bus states: “You are twice as likely to have unprotected sex after heavy drinking”.
Another pint, please, landlord.
Robert Price, Haywards Heath, West Sussex

SIR – There is a brilliant and simple solution to the controversy over racial profiling at airports. All passengers will be required to step into a booth that scans for explosive devices and automatically detonates any device found. Harmless individuals will be released immediately after being scanned. Muffled explosions, contained within the booth, will be followed by an announcement that a seat has become available for standby passengers.
It’s a win-win for everyone.
Robert Readman, Bournemouth, Dorset

SIR – The EU states that a small calf transported by rail must be afforded a space of between 0.3 metres and 0.4 metres squared in which to travel.
I was wondering to whom I should write to complain about the fact that my feet didn’t touch the floor for 45 minutes on the 15:44 to Sevenoaks from London Bridge last night.
S.B. Sevenoaks, Kent

Tanned Tony
SIR – I don’t believe you should judge a man by the colour of his skin, but in the case of Tony Blair I’ll make an exception.
Ralph Berry, Stratford-upon-Avon Warwickshire

SIR – Anyone feeling slightly envious on learning the extent of Tony Blair’s wealth should console themselves by remembering that he’s married to Cherie.
Lawrence Fraser, Elgin, Moray

Sporting figures
SIR – Whose idea was it to stage the World Cup during the cricket season?
Mary E. Rudd, Pevensey Bay, East Sussex

Radio gaga
SIR – What on earth is going on at Radio Two? We’ve got Graham Norton sitting in for Chris Evans in the morning, and Dale Winton covering Steve Wright in the afternoon. It’s as camp as a row of tents.
Throw in Alan Carr for Ken Bruce next week and we’ll have a full-on jamboree.
Steve Brennan, Glenmavis, Lanarkshire

People in Government Steal Money !!!!

Oh yes they do....

Well no surprises here for the vast majority of the population in Ukraine. In fact it’s well known that ALL people connected to the Ukraine Government are expected to be involved in stealing money. It’s a way of life in Ukraine. But what is interesting this time is that the new government has brought in a team of lawyers and investigators from the US to conduct an audit on some of the ‘suspect activities’ of the previous government in Ukraine. In a nutshell, the team of ‘investigators’ looked at six cases ‘in depth’ involving the pure theft of state money and also the misuse of state funds authorised by the previous Prime Minister – Yulia Tymoshenko during her term of office.

The team of investigators from US firms Trout Cacheris PLLC, Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP and Kroll Inc produced a report this week which claims they have evidence to show how certain departments from the previous government in Ukraine were involved in the theft of state funds and/or the misuse of state funds during the period 2008-2009 and the first quarter of 2010.

So for the first time in the history of Ukraine, people have a step by step explanation of some of the situations in government where people have been involved in stealing money from the state budget with EVIDENCE. Admittedly all this is just evidence, yet to be produced in a court of law (if ever it gets that far). But it’s a major step forward towards demonstrating some of the acts of theft/fraud that have been taking place for many years here in Ukraine, but the majority of people have been powerless to do any thing about..

Unfortunately, many of the companies used in the process of ‘stealing’ this money are British registered companies. Not that ‘Brits’ are involved, but companies registered in England & Wales and also in Scotland used by foreign nationals as ‘Shell Companies” or legal entities purely designed for money laundering purposes.

Registering a British company is still very easy and quick and without any real checks on who is behind these companies. I suspect that HM Inspectorates are busy chasing ‘Brits’ for other reasons. But that’s freedom and democracy for you.

Anyhow the report provides interesting examples of how money has been stolen from the Ukraine State Budget. Including:

One case where 27 vehicles were purchased at highly inflated prices at GBP 1.8million.
Another where the government pre-paid in 2009 for 22,000 tons of sugar at GBP 20 million and as at today only 5,000 tons have been delivered.

In 2009 again, the Ukraine government received Euro 320 million for the sale of ‘Carbon Credits’ under the framework of the Kyoto Protocol and how the previous government failed to use these funds for environmental projects but used the funds to support the State Pension Fund.

In another case the Ukrainian Ministry of Health was involved in the purchase of 1,000 vehicles from an Austrian company, the later organised a line of credit with an Austrian bank for the same government department involving very high fees involving Euro 100 million where the Austrian company was the sole supplier of goods.

Again in 2008-9 the Health Ministry was involved in the purchase of ‘Medical Equipment’ to the tune of GBP 29 million where items were purchased at highly inflated prices.

A full copy of the report can be seen here.

14 October 2010

What we don't need is more doom and gloom

According to the data released by the Office for National Statistics, U.K. unemployment claims rose for a second month in September. It is the biggest increase in eight months. Jobless benefit claims rose by 5,300 from the previous month to 1.473 million which exceeded the median forecast of 23 economists for an increase of 4,500. Overall unemployment in the quarter through August fell by 20,000 to 2.45 million, led by 16 to 17 year-old people.

The claimant-count unemployment rate stayed at 4.5 percent in September. The unemployment rate in the quarter through August measured by International Labour Organization methods slipped to 7.7 percent, the lowest since the three months through May 2009. Unemployment would have risen if it excluded 16 to 17 year olds. The unemployment rate compares with 10.1 percent in the euro region, 9.6 percent in the U.S. and 5.1 percent in Japan.

Weekly pay including bonuses rose 1.7 percent in the three months through August from a year earlier, while excluding bonuses, pay increased by 2 percent, according to the released data. The released report shows that the economic recovery may be weakening and highlighted the extent to which private sector firms could also be hit by the cuts.

The U.K. Treasury’s fiscal watchdog predicts the loss of half a million jobs in the public sector by April 2015 due to the government budget squeeze. Unions representing more than 6 million workers voted in September to coordinate industrial action in a campaign to stop the cuts. The government will next week announce, how its plan to reduce a record budget deficit will affect individual departments.
In a report by PricewaterhouseCoopers, an accounting firm said spending cuts could result in 1million job losses. The Office for Budget Responsibility has said that 600,000 public sector jobs could be lost as the government cuts spending.

As I said…doom and gloom.

13 October 2010

Top Employers in the UK

The following companies are 56 of the leading employers in the UK, each offering graduates a work environment of opportunity, development and reward.

These companies have been scientifically researched according to 11 key areas of HR best practice, and based on this, have achieved an international standard of people management excellence.

The certified Britain’s Top Employers for 2010 are:

A4e Limited – www.a4ecareers.com

ARM Ltd - www.arm.com/employment

AXA UK - www.axa.co.uk

Barchester Healthcare Ltd - www.barchester.com

Berwin Leighton Paisner LLP - www.blplaw.com

Bite Communications - www.bitepr.com

BPP Group – www.bpp.com

CMS Cameron McKenna LLP - www.law-now.com

Denton Wilde Sapte LLP - www.dentonwildesapte.com

DLA Piper LLP - www.dlapiper.com

Flint Bishop LLP - www.flintbishop.co.uk

G4S plc - www.g4s.com

HCL Technologies - www.hcltech.com

Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust - www.heartofengland.nhs.uk

Homes for Haringey - www.homesforharingey.org

Hydrogen Group Plc - www.hydrogengroup.com

IBM UK Ltd - www.ibm.com/employment/uk

IG Group Holdings plc - www.iggroup.com

Informa - www.informa.com

Information Management Group - www.imgroup.com

Integralis Ltd - www.integralis.com

JD Wetherspoon PLC - www.jdwetherspoon.co.uk

John Wood Group PLC - www.woodgroup.com

KFC UKI - www.kfc.co.uk

London & Quadrant Housing Trust - www.lqgroup.org.uk

Lonza Biologics plc - www.lonza.com

LV=- www.lv.com

Matchtech Group - www.matchtech.com

McCann Erickson London - www.mccann.co.uk

McCann Manchester - www.mccannmanchester.co.uk

McDonald's Restaurants - www.mcdonalds.co.uk

Merck Serono - www.merckserono.com

Metro - www.metro.co.uk

Moorfields Eye Hospital NHS Foundation Trust - www.moorfields.nhs.uk

Muller Dairy UK Ltd - www.mullerdairy.co.uk

NH Hoteles - www.nh-hotels.com

Natures Way Foods - www.natureswayfoods.com

NCC Group plc - www.nccgroup.com

Ofcom - www.ofcom.org.uk

Oxleas NHS Foundation Trust - www.oxleas.nhs.uk

Peter Brett Associates LLP - www.peterbrett.com

Quest Diagnostics - www.questdiagnostics.com/uk

Reliance Security Group - www.reliancesecurity.co.uk

Rider Levett Bucknall UK Ltd - www.rlb.com

RM Education plc - www.rm.com

RPS Group PLC - www.rpsgroup.com

Sacker & Partners LLP - www.sackers.com

Saffery Champness - www.saffery.com

Shaw Trust - www.shaw-trust.org.uk

Sybase (UK) Ltd - www.sybase.com

The Co-operative Group - www.co-operative.coop

TNT UK Ltd - www.tnt.co.uk

Travis Perkins - www.travisperkinsplc.com

UNITE Group PLC - www.unite-group.co.uk

Weightmans LLP - www.weightmans.com

ZenithOptimedia - www.zenithoptimedia.com

The Britain’s Top Employers project is a unique combination of HR policy-based research, certification and promotion.

All participants have completed a comprehensive research programme called the HR Best Practices Survey, designed to give deep insights into a company’s performance across 11 key areas of HR practice.

These include Talent Management and Engagement; Communication; Employee Development; and Reward and Recognition.

Participants in Britain’s Top Employers are evaluated on criteria that are then used to benchmark their performance with peer group organisations.

This detailed benchmarking exercise highlights areas of relative strength and gives HR professionals and senior executives valuable insight to their employer brand.

I wonder when we can start making lists like this in Ukraine?

UK property market on 'knife edge' as estate agents warn of house price falls

A total of 41 per cent more estate agents expect values to fall, compared to 38 per cent the previous month and the lowest level since March last year.
Prices are expected to drop following a sharp increase in the numbers of properties being put on the market for sale amid insufficient demand from buyers.
The percentage of estate agents who reported a rise rather than a fall in new instructions jumped to 22 per cent in September, up from 12 per cent the previous month, according to the latest housing survey from the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors.
The fresh influx of property to the market combined with a lack of buyers remains the key problem affecting the sector. First-time buyers are in particularly short supply as the high deposits required by lenders prevent them from taking their first steps on the property ladder. Without sufficient demand property prices continue to slip back. It’s very much a buyers market at the moment.
It comes after Britain’s largest mortgage lender Halifax said the price of the average home in Britain had fallen £6,000 in a month to £162,096.
The situation is even worse here in Ukraine. Very few banks are prepared to provide mortgages, but those that do are demanding very high deposits and then high interest rates.

The state of most economies can be judged by the situation in the property market.
We have a long way to go yet.

12 October 2010

Why Can't Common Sense Prevail?

On my recent visit to London I decided to fly with Wizzair, the only low cost operator between Kyiv and London (Luton). On the oubound flight from Kyiv to London I carried just two small bags (one bag for clothes and one small briefcase) but no luggage to check in. I always try to travel light to avoid long queues at baggage reclaim. So no problems, check-in was easy and my bags all weighed less than 10kgs as per the requirements of Wizzair.

On the return journey, London Luton to Kyiv, I was suprised on the different check in 'rules' applied by Luton Airport. i.e 'Only one item can be carried on board as hand luggage'.
The check-in girl tells me "You must check-in your other bag and pay the GBP 26 extra" "otherwise you will be sent back by the secuity staff". What choice do I have?

Question? "Why does an airline operator have different rules at different airports? Or are the rules determined by the airport?" Second Question? "Why am I penalised for carrying a second bag even though the two bags together still weight less than the 10kgs carry on allowance?"

More important question "Why don't airline operators weigh ME, surely I weigh MORE than the two bags together and maybe as a result of my trip to London I am returning some few kgs overweight after all the food I consumed in the city?"

Surely, the easiest way of determining how much a passenger should pay for weight is to weigh both the passenger and his/her luggage together and then decide if they are under or over the weight allowance for each passenger. But no..... this would be too easy or maybe against the 'human rights' of those who are 'weight challenged'.

I miss those days when common sense used to be the norm. Ah well, I'm sure they will never return

04 October 2010

UK Immigration Cap - For and Against

As the impending UK immigration changes are set to be implemented, the debate continues as to how it will affect the country as a whole.
The temporary cap has been established at 24,100 applications between the months of June 2010 and April 2011. The permanent cap is currently thought to be below 100,000 annual applications by the next election. The implementation of an immigration cap, both temporary and permanent, has spurred a country-wide debate between business leaders and top Government figures alike.
London Mayor Boris Johnson is one of the many who have taken action against the implementation of an immigration cap. "Early indications are that the imposition of an interim limit on non-EU economic migration is already causing business significant recruitment problems" stated Mayor Johnson in a letter to Home Secretary Teresa May. Within the aforementioned letter, Johnson stressed that too low a cap will "put the economic recovery at risk" and that even the temporary cap on non-EU immigrants is already causing problems for businesses within the UK.
Mayor Johnson, however, continued his argument by calling the Government to rethink their policy as the leading companies within the UK are "unanimous in their position and hostile to the proposal." He went on to say: "they warn that the limit will damage small, medium and large businesses, prevent inward investment, talent and trade opportunities coming to London, and thereby materially damage London's competitiveness."
Business leaders have also widely opposed the immigration cap being placed at such a low amount. A spokesman for the employers' body stated that the cap "places an immediate disadvantage on UK based businesses as they seek to win international business, and in doing so need to deploy internationally sought-after talent. This is the worst of all times to constrain business in its ability to access the skilled global talent it needs to support this growth".
The Government stated that it wants to bring immigration levels back to the levels of the 1990s, but also wants to focus on attracting the very best of the best to drive economic growth within the UK. The proposed cap is also meant to address the pressure on public services, infrastructure and regain public confidence in the Government's immigration system once again.

UK Visa Fees to increase again soon

The UK Boarder Agency (UKBA) has announced that there will be an increase to immigration and nationality application fees coming the fall of 2010. The increase will affect all those who are looking to visit, study, work or migrate to the UK.

The regulations to set UK visa application fees at or below the cost of processing are subject to negative procedures within the parliament which would have the fees increase from October 1, 2010. If the application fees are set above the processing costs, then this would involve an affirmative parliamentary process, which would then have the increase in fees come into effect starting in November. The latter would be subject to parliamentary timetabling.
The UKBA has stated that the decision to increase the fees will be properly reviewed and managed in order to not only to benefit the UK, but also to help maintain secure border control and to continue the UK's ability to attract tourism and much needed Skilled Workers.

Stronger Checks by UKBA ?

I flew into London last Friday night and witnessed the longest queue for passport control I have ever seen. It took me over one hour just to get through passport control. The UKBA did announce that things may be slow due to them now making 'stronger checks' on those wishing to enter the UK. Most of the people in the queue were UK and other EU passport holders and as you can imagine they were not happy about the long delays. To make matters worse the UKBA computers systems were not performing so quickly, providing another excuse for delays.

I'm sure most people will agree that checks have to be made, but surely things need to improve.
Not a very nice welcome to the United Kingdom advert is it?

01 October 2010

The Property Market in Ukraine 2010

Last night the BBCU held a meeting to discuss the current state of the property market in Ukraine.
We heard from experts from DTZ, CBRE and NAI Pickard about the 'Investment Market', 'Residential Market' and 'Office Market'.

Ukraine and in particular Kyiv is experiencing a small but slight increase in property activity.
In commercial, the office and retail sectors have seen a little light at the end of the tunnel, whereas the residential market is barely alive. Its certainly a 'buyers market' now in Ukraine and there are some good deals to be made in residential. (probably for the first time in Ukraine).

However, there are far too many developments in both commercial and residential that are still 'frozen' post crisis. Banks are still not prepared to provide credit to developers or private lenders.
Mortages are only available with a 40% deposit followed by very high interest rates.
The property market in Ukraine still has a heart beat, but its certainly not sprinting down the street like it did during the past five years. Maybe this is a good thing.

I am off to the UK today for 10 days to see how things are progressing. Will keep you informed.

28 September 2010

Medicare Europe in Ukraine

This week I will help launch a new British company in Ukraine.
Medicare Europe is a British based company that has decided to focus on Ukraine.
The company will provide 'Medical Tourism' and 'Medical Treatment Solutions' for people who need medical treatment, but want to avoid the lengthy queues and sometimes very expensive costs involved in treatment for Dentistry, Cosmetic Surgery, Eye Treatment and even IVF Treatment in the UK and other EU countries.

Private clinics in Ukraine offer some of the very best medical solutions in Europe.
Medical staff are highly quailified and most are using the very latest 'state-of-the-art' medical equipment to treat patients. The big plus is that clinics in Ukraine can provide excellent medical treatment to a very high standard with very low prices compared to the UK.
For many people Ukraine is still a country waiting to be discovered and I hope through Medicare Europe we will help to overcome many of the misunderstandings people have about Ukraine.

Its a well know fact, that most Ukrainians living in other countries will seek to return to Ukraine for medical treatment, as they know that they will receive a high standard of care and treatment when compared to the 'west'. Please do not misunderstand me, we are talking here about the PRIVATE Sector clinics in Ukraine (and mainly Kyiv). The state sector clinics/hospitals are still a long way from being acceptable by EU standards. There is a GREAT divide here in Ukraine between the private and public sectors for health care.

The private sector clinics have a lot to offer both Ukrainain citizens and private clients from other countries. Medical tourism in Ukraine is a service sector which is just waiting to take off and I wish Medicare Europe all the best in their new venture.

Tourists to Chernobyl - 24 Years on

Tourists flock to Chernobyl 24 years after disaster hit Ukraine.
Nice little story in the Daily Mail.

We all know its a little strange for Ukrainians who think that we westerners are 'crazy' for wanting to visit the site of the worlds worst nuclear disaster. But let's say it's a cultural difference in misunderstanding why we want to go and LOOK at where it all happened and what it looks like now.

The BBCU often arrange trips to Chernobyl to cater for the 'adventurous tastes' of tourists in Ukraine.

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/travel/article-1315608/Chernobyl-tourist-attraction-25-years-disaster.html#ixzz10leIUzWQ

21 September 2010

Visa to the United Kingdom - Are we creating too many barriers?

You would not believe the increasing number of requests I now receive each day to provide help with Visa applications to the UK and also to help with advice on making appeals for rejections.

Lets look at the scene so far. The UK Home Secretary - Teresa May - Claims that the recent 'cap' on immigration "will not harm the UK economy"
Back in June this year The British Home Secretary confirmed that "immediate restrictions will limit the number of workers entering the UK from outside the Europe Union to 24,100 before April 2011"

Then we had the Immigration Minister - Damian Green who spoke recently at the Royal Commonwealth Society in London. Damian Green said that the Government wishes to "maximise" the benefits of immigration.

The UK immigration minister went on to say that the UK has benefitted from immigration but 'will only continue to do so if it is properly controlled'.

UK Immigration has undertaken research recently on immigration into the UK and has published a new report about immigration called "The migrant journey". The immigration report looks at what has happened to immigrants who came into the UK in 2004. According to UK immigration the largest group of migrants were the 186,000 students on student visas. The immigration minister went onto say that more than twenty percent of migrants were still in the UK five years later:

'We need to understand more clearly why a significant proportion of students are still here more than 5 years after their arrival. And we also need a system which can scrutinise effectively, and if necessary take action against, those whose long-term presence would be of little or no economic benefit.'

I am sure all this has been taken on board by the UK Border Agency (UKBA)
Most recently we had Vince Cable the Business Secretary claiming that the immigration cap will harm British companies who need to find highly skilled workers from other countries.

So, much confusion among the senior members of the new UK Government coalition.
After the speech by Damian Green, I'm sure the word went out both offically and unoffically that the UKBA must stop so many people trying to enter the UK on Student Visas. No coincidence that I then get requests from Ukrainains who have just been rejected (very hard word that)and not allowed to go to the UK to take up places at UK universities AFTER they had been given firm offers by UK universities AND after thay had confirmed they had enough money to pay fees and accommodation and living expenses etc. Let's face it, many of these Ukrainain students are from VERY rich families who have no problem in setting aside GBP 25,000 per year for their kids to go to a UK university.But then the gentlemen from the UKBA/Immigration officers will reject the "Student Visa' Application based on the poor excuse that the bank account that contains the money for the student to go to the UK, does not have any 'Account History". Its pretty obvious that rejections are being made purely to meet political objectives. We all know that the new UK Coalition government needs to keep 'Daily Mail" Readers happy and stop all these 'Johnny Foreigners" from getting into the UK as they just might decide to stay there.

I am forever telling Ukrainian people that I am sorry that their application was rejected. It must have been the poor preparation of the application that made the Immigration officer decide to reject their visa application. Please do not take it personal. But as always people DO take it personal. Who can blame them?

We all know that the UK is already FULL of too many immigrants and many of them are there illegally. Moreover, many are there just to 'claim a better life' and they have no intention of ever leaving and will use the UK benefits system to maximum advantage. Many of them know how to exploit the system better than most native British people.

But, getting back to Vince Cable. Is he right? Will UK industry suffer as a result o fthe government places a cap on the number of people that can come to live and work in the UK from outside the EU? I get the feeling that the majority of British people would say "Enough already, we do not need any more immigrants".

Getting back to the people that contact me for help. The vast majority are Business people who only need to visit the UK on a short business trip and are afraid they will have a problem with the UKBA. Most of these business people have no intention whatsoever of staying in the UK. (I assure you they have a much better lifestyle here in Ukraine than what they would have in the UK.) The other group are parents who have managed to secure an offer from a UK university for one of their kids to complete the big dream of a "British University Education". They have the offer from the university (afterall they are paying the full wack of fees), they have organised a flat for their kid to stay and in many cases they have purchased a flat or house just for the same. Moreover, they have more than enough money to enable this 'international student' to live comfortably in the UK during their course of study. But then some UKBA employee decides to find a 'problem' with the visa application and all it brought to a sharp halt. Hence they contact me and ask "Why does your country do this?"

It is a dilema. On the one hand, I know I could find thousands of UK British residents who would say "Why do we need to allow more International students/workers into the UK, we need to take care of our own students first who are finding it difficult to secure a place at university".

On the other hand, we could say that the UK needs international students. British universities are still considered the best in the world. British universities also have a reputation for producing many future leaders in both governments and industries around the world.

Maybe though, the UKBA and the UK government are right. Things need to be tougher.
Maybe the UK has been too soft in the past and has let far too many people into the country without proper checks. But, in my case I know for sure I ALWAYS get approached for help by genuine people who are not poor people who genuinely want to go to the UK for business reasons or for completing a UK University course of study and they have every intention of returning to Ukraine.

Unfortunately, I am sure it the UK's 'fellow EU citizens' from Romania and some other countries that have created such a bad image of immigrants in the UK, that British people have reacted in such a negative way towards people from 'Eastern Europe'. Many Romanians are allowed to stay in the UK because they are EU citizens, but they fail to bring any economic benefit to the country.

So, it would appear that the biggest problem facing the UK is from other EU citizens and not from people from outside the EU, many of whom just want to visit for business purposes or short term higher education opportunities.

See: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/economics/8008109/Vince-Cable-says-immigration-cap-is-costing-British-jobs.html