11 July 2010

BBCU Social Event - 8 July

We are very lucky at the British Business Club. Last Thursday we held a social get together at the newly opened 'Peter Lik Art Gallery' in the city centre.
We were treated to a very special welcome and I think everyone could not help but be impressed by the very high standard of photographic art on display inside the gallery.
It was a great environment in which to present membership certificates to new members and to the winners of our recent BBCU Golf Day Tournament.

Now I discover there are plans to open many other art galleries in Kyiv.
I met one woman who told me she will soon open her own gallery and 'It's just for meeting people...I don't need to make any money" she said.
I could not help but think of the usual phrase we expats use 'Only in Ukraine!'

10 July 2010

British PM talks tough to Ambassadors

Over 200 British Ambassadors attended a meeting this week in London and were addressed by the British Prime Minister in a tough manner.
Quote from the Independent Newspaper:

Mr Cameron, sitting beside Nick Clegg, said: "I want you to ask yourself every day: 'What am I doing to promote British business?' If you want to keep Britain's great ambassadorial residences, then I want you to show me that every day you are using them relentlessly to open new trade links and to generate new business for Britain."
See: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/do-our-ambassadors-spoil-themselves-2021228.html

We all know that the British PM is trying to maintain confidence with the 'business community', so sorting out the Ambassadors is just a display of him trying to get tough no doubt. But is he right? Are British Ambassadors the right people to generate new business for the United Kingdom?

Probably not in my opinion. All British expats, in whichever country they live, tend to be critical of the British Ambassador and his team. Usual comments range from "What do they do all day?" through to "They are all useless public servants" et al.

To be fair, most things that have a 'British' tag to them, still tend to have respect from most countries and the opinion and the image sent out by British Embassies is still very important in the host country. After all British Ambassadors are trained to be diplomats and are still the best in the world and most maintain and project an image that make British people proud.

However, 'Business, Trade, Investment' should perhaps be looked at in a different way. Most Embassies have a first secretary or Trade Delegate who is responsible for trade and promoting business opportunities for UK companies in the host country and also for investment within the UK. Many of these first secretaries are 'normal' civil service type people with very little understanding of the business world and have probably never worked in the private sector. But I am sure most of them try their best.

Perhaps it is time for a major change to the type of people involved in promoting trade and investment within British Embassies? Many people have suggested that only people with previous experience in the private sector and with genuine business experience should be given the task of representing British business interests.

There are many British business people who would jump at the chance to represent the UK in another country and would accept the generous salary and perks already provided to civil servants from the FCO. The down side maybe is that these people would not be diplomats. But winning business for the UK would in my opinion be far more important than playing at diplomacy. The Ambassador can concentrate on being the senior diplomat.

Would this work? Perhaps the British FCO and indeed the new Foreign Secretaary William Hague could consider a few 'pilot projects' in a few countries where bringing in people with real business experience could be tested for say one year.

Let's face it, the United Kingdom needs all the help is can get right now and now is the time to focus on helping those people who are responsible for 'bringing home the bacon'.

06 July 2010

Always interesting in Ukraine

The Ukraine government has proposed projects to foreign investors.
The government has drawn up a list of 840 investment projects related to Ukrainian economic sectors in order to raise foreign capital, according to Ukrainian First Vice Premier Andriy Kliuyev.

"We expect that large national and foreign industrial capital would pour to the country. The government has drawn up a list of 840 investment projects linked to the upgrade of the Ukrainian real economic sector," he said at the international investment forum on financing post-crisis economies of the CIS member states on
2 July 2010.

It will be interesting to see what's on offer. I met a consultant in Kyiv recently who introduced me to many 'projects' where the shareholders of Ukrainian companies were offering opportunities to investors to share in the development of their businesses. Th eonly reason I agreed to met this consultant is that for the first time I was presented with memorandums that had been carefully prepared and provided the kind of information we expect to see when a company is looking to attract investors. Prior to this I had always experienced the usual 'secret approach' to providing information to potential investors.

Now that the banks are making it very difficult to obtain finance for business development, more and more Ukrainian businesses are looking to foreign investors for development capital based on equity participation. Maybe it's a positive step that these businesses are being forced to find capital by other methods. There are many great opportunities to be found here in Ukraine if go through the right channels.

Unfortunately, nothing is ever straight forward in Ukraine. This is a major hurdle that causes confusion for so many potential investors. But there are many organisations offering support to foreign investors, including the British Business Club, so help is always available for those who really want to take advantage of a developing economy where labour and other production costs are one of the lowest in Europe.