Oleksandra Azarkhina, Deputy Minister of Infrastructure of Ukraine, in the podcast "RISE Ukraine - Everything about reconstruction" talked about the results of the Lugano conference, the lessons of the Large Construction program, the priority tasks of reconstruction, restoration of critical infrastructure, and digitization as a tool to fight corruption. Here are the key quotes from the conversation.
In Lugano, we had a chance to show who today's Ukraine is. We are now more known and understood, and thanks to this, we receive such support. For us, the main events were primarily related to international financial facilities: we had meetings with the World Bank, the European Investment Bank, and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. These were the stepping stones, certain ideas that we laid then and are currently refining. Big deals there, and office work here — with computers and numbers. We are at that stage now.
Bilateral meetings with different countries were interesting. I was most impressed by South Korea. I guarantee that soon we will see numerous interesting projects in our bilateral cooperation. It may not be obvious, but this is the country that can teach us the most right now. Israel, for example, has a different enemy—terrorists, not an entire terrorist state.
In reality, $750 billion is not too much for our recovery needs. Now we are counting the direct losses—the destroyed roads, schools, and kindergartens, and how much it will cost us to rebuild. However, we must understand that for each of these infrastructures, the cost includes not only the new construction but also the cleaning of the destroyed sites, at least with consideration of environmental risks.
Our indirect losses are millions of dollars every day our ports are blocked. A commensurate figure here is our GDP losses, i.e. a 30-40% decrease in GDP growth rate. Therefore, the losses are huge.
I was rather a representative of the public for quite a long time and only then entered the civil service. And I feel that we lack trust. It is valuable when the public can offer solutions. When I see now that we all have a clear understanding of where the enemy is, I think it's easier for us to join forces. This means that we have to sit together and listen carefully to each other.
In my opinion, RISE Ukraine is a very good initiative. I personally appreciate that the members of this organization are primarily experts, with the understanding that joint solutions must be found.
The large Construction program is an important project for today's reconstruction. One way or another, the state learned to manage numerous complex projects, although there were certain nuances with trust. But what we managed to do in the last two years affected the economy and strengthened citizens' faith in the state. Such a, perhaps, simple thing as a road reminded citizens that there is a state here. It can solve some problems that have not been solved for years.
When you work in the state, you have to understand that many things will be criticized. But the main thing is to follow a certain line. I clearly understand why we made changes and developed regulations and laws because we have results that are hard to argue with. After all, HIMARS are flying quickly along these roads that we built. And, it's sad to say, but wounded people are delivered a little faster.
But in the future, we 100% need to devote more time to communicate both with the public and with international partners. All these things require explanation. Yes, it takes time, but we as a state are simply obliged to do it now.
I don't like when we call international partners "donors". This position makes both us and them passive participants. I want a partnership. Therefore, when we are talking about the involvement of their specific experts and their industries, we are not just talking about providing money, but about the experience, about joint creativity. This is our way of building trust.
Now we have reduced our main activity to two key tasks. The first is the prevention of humanitarian crises in Ukraine, which means: basic transportation, the ability to deliver products, support the army, and simply the ability for people to have this basic mobility. The second block is the prevention of a food crisis in the world, and here everything is 100% related to export logistics. We are currently spending a lot of time and effort on unblocking seaports, as well as on expanding logistics capabilities at the border.
There is a survival phase. This is what can be done during this construction season. And then we talk about the development phase, which we plan to start even before the end of hostilities. We understand that the pace will not be the same, but still, our philosophy is that we have to create the movement of money, the movement of projects — this is the only way we will be able to revive our economy.
During this time, we have already restored about 40 road crossings. On the railway, we were also able to restore 13 overpasses. This is important because it is really about restoring normal life for people. It is 100% difficult for us with the territories where there are currently hostilities, which are temporarily occupied, we can’t do anything there yet. Therefore, now is precisely the time when it is necessary to plan everything correctly. We are now focusing our efforts and our partners' efforts on things related to design, with some research, with the understanding of how to do it right.
The tram in Irpin is a really important matter. Having restored it, we give a signal to all those people who left the town: come back. The state thinks about you, you can live here, we have done the work, we demined the territory. Come, rebuild. My parents have a house in Vorzel, and it is so nice to see that most of the roofs have already been repaired. People are slowly recovering — this is also part of our resistance.
When you simply transfer a project from paper to digital, cases of abuse around it become impossible. In addition to abuse, it also saves money and time. And just a smart system. The concept of database decisions resonates with me when we understand that the decision is not based on the whims of some deputy but on specific calculations.
Currently, the most important area of work for reconstruction is the development of a register of damaged infrastructure. This register is important because it contains information not only about transport infrastructure but also about residential, educational, and medical infrastructure. The register will become the basis for work, especially with the prosecutor's office and courts. This is really the basis that will be the mandatory official source of data.
Based on this register, we want to create the Rebuild Ukraine Digital Management system. It will also include modules for planning, modeling, procurement, etc. And it will also allow uniting of the efforts of the public and donors in this system.
When we achieve this, it will be a huge breakthrough because it is the proper management of public resources. After all, corruption exists not only at the stage of procurement: it begins at the stage of prioritization, design, procurement, execution of works, approval of works — and further along this cycle. At each of these stages, the right solutions must be applied, and thanks to digitalization, we will be able to trace them.
For me, reconstruction should end on the Crimean Peninsula. I was born in Crimea, and 5 generations were born there after me. Therefore, I have big plans for Crimea. I joked for a long time about the fact that we should enter Crimea on roller skates because we have the Kharkiv - Yalta road, and we are repairing it according to the route principle. Therefore, we have to get to Yalta, we have no other options.