Q: fDi Magazine has placed Lviv in our global Smart Locations of the Future 2019/20 rankings published in April 2019. What initiatives are happening to keep Lviv a smart city?
A: For me, the number one priority is creating more jobs. We’ve had great progress in the IT sector: about 30,000 people are now employed in IT in our city. In addition to developing IT, we also want to develop science, and [with it] the implementation of new innovations into city life.
We are producing our own electrical transportation vehicles: trains, trolley buses and e-buses. Recently we made an agreement with the International Finance Corporation, which gave us a loan of €50m to purchase 100 new trolley buses and to repair the cable lines for our tram system.
My aim is to make sure that Lviv only uses electrical transport. I would like to see electrical transport dominate in Ukraine in general. Whether it is IT or electrical transport, I’m looking for innovation in any area. We also have a special initiative to support science. We have created about 60 scholarships, and they will be given out to scientists [who will carry out] research in Lviv. No other city in Ukraine has such support for their scientists.
People who arrive in Lviv notice the completely different atmosphere to the rest of Ukraine. But we have our challenges. We are in competition [for talent] with Poland, because jobs in Poland pay much more than those here. Every day we have five to seven flights to Polish cities from Lviv airport. The distance is 60 kilometres by road and one hour by train. This is tangible competition.
Q: How do you deal with this competition? What are the solutions?
A: Increased salaries. And to do that we need to introduce a tax for the exported capital instead of income tax – which would minimise corruption as a result and would make people’s salaries higher. There is no other way. Either we pay bigger salaries or we lose our people.
Q: Is it realistic that such a tax could be implemented?
A: I think so and I see there is some willingness in Parliament [to do this]. Even the government is seriously discussing it, [and] two years ago no one would even talk about it. We saw good results in Georgia, Lithuania and Estonia after such a tax was introduced.
Q: What was your reaction to the recent results of the presidential elections and what would you like to see from the new administration in Kiev?
A: We started a new page in our lives. We have parliamentary elections [coming up] and I think the results of these will be very similar to the result of the presidential election. If you had asked me one year ago about the presidential election, I wouldn’t have even mentioned the winner [comedian Volodymyr Zelenksy] because it was a shock for the political establishment. We can compare the situation to the US. But in the US, [Donald] Trump had support from the Republican Party. But in Ukraine the new president has zero party activity. It’s a very [unusual] situation for our country.
And yet I believe these are the changes that we need. It is very difficult to fight corruption without changing the situation. We are about to see a lot of new faces in Ukrainian politics. And we are about to hear a lot of new non-standard decisions. But I should stress again that the entire political establishment is shocked at the moment. And about 80% of them are now packing their suitcases to leave for a long time!
Q: What do you think the new administration’s priorities should be?
A: Fighting corruption, fighting poverty and developing the country. But we have a huge problem which is war [in eastern Ukraine], and it drains blood out of us. But you can only win the war if you work more inside the country, and if you bring order here. Corruption, poverty, the war – they are all connected. That’s why the president needs to show great wisdom in dealing with these problems. We are all waiting to see what his first decisions will be.