Sunday, April 12, 2015

Ukraine's American Finance Minister, Natalie Jaresko

This was the melodramatically titled lead story for Bloomberg Businessweek a few weeks ago, The American Woman Who Stands Between Putin and Ukraine by Brett Forrest, dated online 05-04-2015/Europe (April 5) but appearing in the 03/09-15-2015 print issue.

It's one of the oddities of the current pro-Western Ukrainian that an American was picked as the Finance Minister, Natalie Jaresko:

Three months ago, Jaresko, 49, left the private equity firm that she co-founded in Ukraine in 2006 to join the government of Petro Poroshenko. A billionaire chocolate and confectionery magnate, he was elected president after the uprising known as the Euromaidan Revolution. At the time, Jaresko didn’t even have Ukrainian citizenship. Now, as the country’s top economic official, she’s Ukraine’s liaison to the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. Tax reform is hers. So is the treasury. She must construct a national budget out of lint. “I can’t wait for the situation to be perfect,” Jaresko says.
Forrest notes:

Jaresko’s appointment, especially considering Horizon C apital’s ongoing relationship with USAID, provides fuel to conspiracy theorists, who depict Euromaidan as a Western plot aimed at luring Ukraine out of Russia’s sphere of influence. The new finance minister is hardly the only target for the c onspiracy-minded. Jaresko joins two other foreigners in Ukraine’s cabinet: Aivaras Abromavicius, a 39-year-old Lithuanian, is the minister of economy and trade. The minister of health care, Alexander Kvitashvili, a Georgian, served in the same capacity in his home government. [my emphasis]

This is also a useful glimpse at Ukraine in the immediate post-Soviet years:

In the mid-1990s, Ukraine endured hyperinflation of 10,000 per cent. A few years later came the shock waves of Russia’s financial crisis. The Ukrainian economy showed its first signs of growth only in 2000, after almost a decade of decline. Then, in 2004, came the Orange Revolution. While the country entered a new period of uncertainty, international institutional investors began to arrive. Two years later, Jaresko and three partners opened investment management firm Horizon Capital. It managed the Western NIS Enterprise Fund and eventually raised two more. When she left last December, it had roughly $600 million of Ukrainian investments under management. (Jaresko and her husband, Ihor Figlus, divorced in 2011. He’s returned to the US. Their two school-age children live in Kiev with Jaresko).
Jaresko became a Ukrainian citizen in order to serve, which despite her career background, she claims she's doing for patriotic public service to her new country:

No matter their origin, these ministers— and the numerous Poles, Germans, Canadians, and other foreigners who’ve joined the government in senior and midlevel positions—are pulling the same oar. Jaresko is no longer a foreign national, President Poroshenko having granted her the citizenship necessary to serve. “I’ve always been a Ukrainian,” she says. “Now I’m a Ukrainian citizen.” By local statute, she’s prohibited from holding two passports, though she has a couple of years to relinquish her American one. It’s hard to imagine she’ll stay in the job that long, considering her government salary of 10,000 hryvnia per month, or about $300. “I’m doing this out of a sense of patriotism,” she says. “I have no other reason to do this, other than to make a difference. Ukraine must succeed. There is no room for any of us to fail.”
She became a Ukrainian citizen the day she began her job as Finance Minister. (Foreign technocrats given Ukrainian citizenship before cabinet vote Reuters 12/02/2014)

This is a brief report from the Financial Times featuring Jaresko, Ukraine’s plan to resuscitate the economy 03/23/2015:

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