Prime Minister of Ukraine Denys Shmyhal Discusses Rebuilding the Country’s Economy at International House

In a conversation moderated by Institute of Politics director Heidi Heitkamp, Prime Minister of Ukraine Denys Shmyhal discussed the impact of war on the country’s economy, including his thoughts on what post-war reconstruction might look like and the importance of innovation in its recovery efforts.

The event, co-hosted by the Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, the Institute of Politics, UChicago Global, and International House, was one part of a larger trip to the United States for the prime minister focused on highlighting the importance of American investment in Ukraine.

Samir Mayekar provided opening remarks.

Samir Mayekar, managing director of the Polsky Center, provided opening remarks and touched on Ukraine’s strong connection to Chicago, sharing how several prominent local civic leaders are members of the Ukrainian American diaspora including Governor JB Pritzker, Penny Pritzker who serves as the U.S. Special Representative for Ukraine’s Economic Recovery, and Michael Polsky who has built one of the most successful renewable energy firms in the world.

Following Mayekar’s comments, Shmyhal took the stage and thanked Chicago for its support and also reiterated on the connections between the city and Ukraine, calling out that it has one of the largest Ukrainian communities in the United States and that it has been a sister city of Kyiv since 1991.

“Today’s meeting gives me the opportunity to express on behalf of the people of Ukraine our gratitude to the State of Illinois and the City of Chicago for your support over the last 783 days of war,” said Shmyhal.

Shmyhal specifically called out Polsky Center namesake Michael Polsky, a Ukrainian-born entrepreneur who was in the audience, for showcasing the potential between Chicago and Ukrainian collaboration.

“Thanks to the Polsky Center for facilitating the meeting today, as the Center’s namesake, Michael Polsky, is a UChicago alum with Ukrainian roots,” said Shmyhal. “His journey began in Kyiv, and I’m pleased to see with my own eyes the results of Chicago and Ukrainian innovation.”

The prime minister shared the status of Ukraine’s war efforts, but most of his focus was on the importance of rebuilding its economy.

“There is a saying that armies win battles, but economies win wars,” said Shmyhal.

Shmyhal pointed out that an obvious factor in doing so is providing security, something the government is primarily focused on, but another is creating jobs that allow Ukrainians to return home and provide for themselves and their family.

Denys Shmyhal

“When we ask refugees what are the critical factors that would push you to come back, one factor is security, but the other is jobs – they need to be able to earn money and pay for the things that they need,” said Shmyhal.

Shmyhal stated that Ukraine lost 3.5 million jobs within the first month of Russia’s invasion. In an effort to recover those lost jobs, the government has launched several programs focused on helping entrepreneurs create businesses.

“We are creating new markets and programs to provide grants and funding to support people and create the possibility for micro, small, and medium sized businesses,” said Shmyhal. “Hundreds of companies and startups have emerged during this time and innovations are being created.”

Michael Polsky, founder and CEO of Invenergy, which hosted Shmyhal earlier in the day at its headquarters, echoed the importance of rebuilding Ukraine’s economy.

“Beyond safety and security, the successful reconstruction of Ukraine’s economy is a critical component of stability and future growth for the country,” said Polsky. “And while it is a significant endeavor, as a Ukrainian-born entrepreneur who found a second home in Chicago, it’s one that requires hard work and perseverance that both Ukrainians and Chicagoans deeply understand and excel at.”


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