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It has already become clear that commerce is one of the key features of the new Kharkiv. The more so, that the city has not changed its geographic location and the status of the main transportation hub on the routes between the Caucasus, Central Asia, and Eastern Europe, adding the advantage of being the main gateway to Russia. The BIZNES Weekly (#18, April 30, 2001) interviewing Kharkiv governor Yevhen Kushnaryov: Why do you think Kharkiv is often referred to as "cop city"? Yevhen Kushnaryov: You know, I am very happy they call Kharkiv a "cop city" rather than "gangster city". Let them continue calling it that way.  

But, certainly, you understand what is implied here? The matter is that law enforcement bodies are influencing business. Yevhen Kushnaryov: The implications are that our law enforcement system is stronger than the mob. And if this is supposed to mean that law enforcement agencies are somehow interacting with the business community, then, it's probably better them than gangsters. However, I stand for that law enforcement agencies should not become subjects of economic activities and act as arbiters or lobbyists of certain interests.

Don't you think, Kharkiv has lost its position of Ukraine's largest scientific and industrial center, and is increasingly becoming a commercial city, in the meaning of small-time, kiosk type commerce? Yevhen Kushnaryov: Yes, I agree that the city has somewhat lost this status now, but I won't agree with someone saying that it is gone forever. We have an opportunity to move, quickly and confidently, and become one of the three leading financial and industrial centers of Ukraine together with Kyiv and Donetsk. The more so, that impressive economic achievements of Donetsk are connected with metallurgy, which means they depend on situation on foreign markets. For us, it is far more difficult to enter international markets with our engineering products. Once we get there, however, we would have a much more stable position. We have huge opportunities on markets of our closest neighbors. Moreover, we have a powerful resource in science. Its capacity is utilized not more than for one third for now. In my opinion, references to lack of funding are not the most decisive reason here. I think that revival of the machine building sector will require the appropriate research base. The support to science, in turn, will give a powerful impact to development of industry.

BIZNES: What sector would you suggest as investment opportunity to businessmen from other regions? What do you think will be the most promising industry in the next year or two?
Yevhen Kushnaryov: I think, everything related to agriculture is very promising. Serious structural transformations are underway there, and investing in this sector is both justifiable and profitable.

BIZNES: Are there any special traits that characterize a Kharkiv entrepreneur?
Yevhen Kushnaryov: It seems to me, there are some. First, I would mention a high educational level of the majority of business people. For all that, Kharkiv is the largest center of higher education in Ukraine. By the way, it is thanks to this high educational level that I would attribute the growing investment business in the region.

Does Russian business have good prospects here? Yevhen Kushnaryov: No better or worse than any other serious business. Though, certainly, Russian businessmen find it easier to do business in our territory, as mentality, the way business is done, and, if you will, the language - these are all the factors having a positive effect on establishing normal relations. Once again, I would like to stress that there are no and there cannot be any special privileges or barriers for Russian business.
Historically, Kharkiv is an extremely versatile town, just like its citizens. This is a great luck, but also a misfortune for the region. An average Kharkivite is quite an accomplished, intellectual person interesting to talk to, with an independent opinion on absolutely everything. Two average Kharkivites would hardly find it boring on a desert island, having each other to talk to. As critics of our city argue, however, it is improbable that they would be able to start a business together. More likely, there would be two businesses.
Kharkiv does not smelt metals - either ferrous or non-ferrous, there are no Donetsk collieries or Dnipropetrovsk steel plants here to consolidate cash flows and common interests. Hence, Kharkivites are more inclined to look for any - even if not so grand - business opportunities. Therefore, the city has a very broad area of activities and extensive opportunities for conducting one's own business. One can invest in gas, machine building, hi-tech, light industry, processing industries, pharmaceuticals, chemicals, construction, transport, trade. In other words, just anywhere.
Obviously, the said diversity opens up unlimited opportunities for small and medium business. Even though, one must admit, it is mainly still quite small business. With such a range of activities, it is not so easy for the region to set its development priorities. Therefore, when Special Regime of Investment Activities (SRIA) in Kharkiv was being developed, it was decided to include nearly everything the city has as its priority sectors.
Radical restructuring processes are currently underway in the region, after which it is hoped to acquire new traits. Today, an average citizen of Kharkiv is feverishly looking for opportunities to make money. Thank God, it's allowed now! In general, Kharkiv residents have always been very entrepreneurial and could earn well even when it was prohibited. Not incidentally, it was in Kharkiv that large-scale underground garment business was flourishing way back under the Soviets.
In view of the crumbling machine building plants and neglected science, people are primarily moving to local bazaars. One could meet not only university graduates, but also university professors in market stalls. One sometimes wonders: Is there anybody in this town producing anything? It looks as if everyone is selling. And it is everywhere: 50 city markets, underground Metro passages, near Metro entrances, numerous kiosks, tents, even at apartment block entrances one could see entrepreneurial babushkas (elderly ladies) selling sunflower seeds, homemade pickles or matches. And there is a multitude of shops, restaurants, cafes, and just street stalls, especially in the downtown area. Probably, commerce for Kharkivites is an outward manifestation of their long-supressed freedom.
"Be your own best helper" - is the guiding principle for the majority of people in the region. The fact that people have come to realize the vainness of hoping for assistance from "benevolent" rulers gives some grounds for optimism. As much as one fifth of able-bodied population or 235,000 people are already involved in "self-rescue"operations in small and medium business. And that's okay. If the authorities would just leave them alone.

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