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Where Zelensky should look for investments in Ukraine?

Author : Oleksiy Kushch

Source : 112 Ukraine

Saudi Arabia and Qatar look more profitable than Oman in terms of possibility of investments in our country
21:47, 15 January 2020

Press Service of the President of Ukraine

The visit of Zelensky to Oman turned out to be extremely unformatted: with the family, but not vacation, official trip, but on a private plane and without the procedure befitting this occasion. And the official meetings themselves, or rather the “meeting,” looked like a “talks in the hotel lobby” staged in the comedy show. And conspiracy versions started to grow.

Again, officially, the purpose of the visit was to attract Omani investments. The country is rich with petrodollars, it has created a multi-billion dollar reserve fund and is buying up assets around the world in order to reduce its oil dependence. In the Arab countries, many issues are resolved at the level of personal contacts and guarantees. But could Zelensky get them? Obviously not. The Sultan of Oman - an 80-year-old venerable old man who ruled the country since 1970, that is, almost the entire post-colonial period, was ill for a long time, which almost everyone knew about. In December, he underwent a course of treatment in Belgium and was unlikely to be ready for negotiations at the beginning of the year, which was confirmed by his death a few days after the departure of our president from the Sultanate. Here it is necessary to take into account the following fact: in this country, the Sultan is essentially the sole ruler and the role of officials, even very senior ones, is minimized to the level of his advisers. You can meet with them - but only for the preparation of the main negotiations with the Sultan himself.

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So Zelensky’s visit, if we accept the official version, has two explanations: either the employees of his office are hopelessly stupid or the real purpose was different. In addition, while making a visit to Oman to receive investments, the president’s team “forgot” that according to the decree No. 1045 of our Cabinet, the sultanate is among the offshore jurisdictions. By the way, Oman is a participant in the “black” (not even “gray”) list of suspicious tax jurisdictions compiled by the EU.

Let’s open the Tax Code and see that the countries included in the offshore list of our government do not provide timely and complete exchange of tax and financial information at the request of other countries. Attracting investments from offshore companies is not “comme il faut”. Of course, our delegations take part in various investment forums that take place in offshore zones, for example, in Cyprus, but if we talk about the visit of the president and the intention to attract investments at the state level, here you need either to adjust a list of "offshores", or to determine the goals. Naturally, to adjust the list, it is necessary to carry out some preparatory work, including establishing an information exchange system, signing double taxation avoidance agreements, etc. What is it for? Well, for example, the president’s representatives praised Oman as a country that is ready to invest in our agricultural market, including the purchase of agricultural land (when non-residents are allowed to indirectly own it). By the way, our Ministry of Economics, speaking of future mechanisms for controlling the concentration of allotments "in one hand", promises to reveal to the world an unprecedented system of monitoring the ultimate beneficiaries of Ukrainian companies, including foreign owners. And how to do this if Oman does not disclose the names of the real owners of companies with local registration? That is, before talking about investments, it would be nice to do at least a few “home lessons”.

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All this goes to the conclusion: the real reasons for the visit were different. But we will not drown in conspiracy theories. We will only say that Zelensky was perhaps the only leader of the European state, who was brought to a troubled region on the eve of the "grandiose clash" in the form of the US-Iran conflict. And since he was "brought", then there were reasons for it.

But we will try to answer, where would it be better to go besides Oman?

Well, for example, to Saudi Arabia, which, based on the population, is a more attractive market for our agricultural products. In addition, there are already considerable Saudi investments in our agricultural sector, that is, one could speak with the Saudis much more specifically than with representatives of Oman about "international conferences" and "dozens of interested businessmen."

Saudi Arabia claims to be the leader of the Arab-Muslim world. That is precisely why Washington and Moscow are paying so much attention to cooperation with this country. One of Trump's first international visits was to Riyadh, during which contracts for $ 380 billion were signed, of which more than $ 100 billion fell on the purchase of American weapons. We also note that during King Salman's visit to Moscow, preliminary contracts for the supply of Russian S-400 air defense systems were signed.

Today, the Saudis are creating a multi-level model of asset diversification, which includes a system of sovereign reserve funds for accumulating current income from oil exports, as well as a universal mechanism for export and import of investments, while transforming them into long-term and profitable business projects. This Saudi megaproject to transform an oil-producing country into a self-sufficient, renewable economic model can be called "diversification of the future."

The creation of a sovereign investment fund of Saudi Arabia in the amount of $ 2 trillion is only the first level and it is almost complete. The development of an effective secondary economical sector (industrial production), which for obvious reasons did not emerge in the kingdom, is the second level and it is in the active phase of implementation. At this stage, the Saudis plan to purchase ready-made technologies and intellectual property rights in order to create an assembly of finished products already in their own country. So, as part of this phase, the Saudis have already bought design documentation in Ukraine, including the right to use intellectual property, to launch the production of AN-132 aircraft.

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The creation of an effective and competitive tertiary level of the economy in the form of services, corporate governance, medicine, education, science, information technology, biotechnology is the third stage and it is already entering the implementation stage. For example, recall the project of the Neom city on the Red Sea. It is also necessary to include the development of alternative energy sources: solar and nuclear, the implementation of space and rocket programs. The Saudis plan to invest up to $ 500 billion in the implementation of the Neom project.

At the fourth stage of diversification, the Saudis plan to create joint projects in other countries, which will not only bring them profit and provide various levels of security (product, information, military), but also actively integrate with investment, industrial and innovative infrastructure in the kingdom itself. As an example, we can take the joint venture capital fund that the Russian Federation and Saudi Arabia want to create in the amount of $ 10 billion. The plans of this mutual fund are: the implementation of ten projects in Russia, each with a capitalization of one billion.

At the fifth stage, a transnational model for managing investment projects, an effective secondary sector of the economy and a tertiary innovative sector of services, with which modern segments of medicine, education and science will emerge, will appear in Saudi Arabia.

The main interest in Ukraine is to attract Saudi investments to our business projects. Marketing estimates of the capacity of the Saudi food market (estimates of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization) record the need for imports of 14-15 million tons of grain, including wheat - up to 3 million tons, corn - up to 2.5 million tons, barley 7- 8 million tons. The last grain crop is already largely closed by supplies from the Russian Federation.

With regard to other areas of cooperation, the most interesting for Saudis can be projects related to: a) infrastructure; b) the innovative capabilities of Ukraine; c) the tertiary sector of the economy; d) the possibility of integration with the EU market.

For example, to launch insurance medicine in Ukraine, you need a financial donor who would have, on the one hand, a reserve capital of at least $ 1 billion, and on the other, investment opportunities to close the cash gaps that will arise in insurance medicine for at least five years, and this will require approximately another 5 billion dollars. On the other hand, these investments can provide the investor with a perpetual rent of up to 10% per year. Such long resources and in such quantity could be found only in the Middle East.

There is another country that is interesting for Ukraine as an alternative to the Saudi direction. We are talking about Qatar. By the way, it is also a member of the blacklist of offshore companies. On average, this country supplies to the international market over 100 billion cubic meters of liquefied natural gas (LNG) per year. One of the main sales markets is European: the market share of Qatar in the LNG segment in the EU countries exceeds 40%, and the average annual supply volume is 20 billion cubic meters. In addition to Europe, Qatar is actively developing the markets of the Asia-Pacific region (APR): China, India, South Korea, Singapore.

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The only problem that stands in the way of LNG from Qatar is its transportation, which does not provide for the convenience of gas pipelines, but depends on the sea logistics routes. Theoretically, the Qatari people could increase their gas supplies in the European direction by 20 billion cubic meters. But for this, we need terminals for regasification of gas from a liquefied state to a gaseous one. To solve this problem, Qatar invests 5 billion pounds in the construction of LNG reception terminals in the UK, in addition, the Polish terminal in Swinoujsc is ready to receive 1-2 billion cubic meters of Qatari gas with the possibility of expansion to 5-7 billion cubic meters.

The construction of the LNG terminal in Odesa is potentially one of the promising entry points for Qatari gas to the European market through our gas transportation system. But here the key problem is the passage of large tankers through the Bosphorus. This problem can be successfully solved with the participation of Turkey. Especially given the presence of common interests that potentially link Ukraine, Qatar, and Turkey into one "tangle" of joint economic interests.

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Moreover, the number of “ingredients” of this investment “dish” can be expanded by including the domestic chemical industry, which turned out to have the minimum level of profitability due to high prices for natural gas. In particular, we are talking about the privatization of the flagship of the industry - the Odesa Port Plant (OPZ). That is, in order to assemble Ukraine’s unique investment puzzle, it is necessary to interest Qatar not only in the supply of LNG to the future Odesa terminal, but also to attract capital from this country for the privatization of the OPZ, the creation of joint agricultural and processing enterprises with the prospect of selling finished products to EU markets.

The above areas of attracting Arab investment are just a sketch in soft “desert” colors. The main thing is that the state interest is not mixed with the private and strategic goals with the desire for momentary gain. In addition, we will have to offer the Arabs either the primacy of the law or the primacy of long-term, continuous power. The first thing is common in the EU and the USA, the second - in China and the Russian Federation. The long-term, continuous power has not yet “nested” in Ukraine. So maybe we should think about the primacy of the law, and they're not only Arab investments, but also Chinese, European and others will flow to our country. Perhaps one of the “greatest political leaders of our time” will finally think about this.

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