The eventual restoration of Ukraine through a $750bn (£620bn) recovery plan is the common task of the entire democratic world, the Ukrainian president said on Monday at the first detailed event to map out a physical future for the country in the event it survives as a western-facing nation after the Russian invasion.
Speaking by video link to a high-level conference in Lugano, Switzerland, attended by many senior Ukrainian politicians, Volodymyr Zelenskiy admitted the task ahead was colossal, claiming the war was a battle of outlooks in which Russia was determined to destroy his country’s physical and moral fabric.
He added the process of recovery being led by a Ukrainian national recovery council would allow his country to deepen its links with Europe.
The scale of the task is such that there is a danger of multilateral bodies duplicating offers, as well as tensions between plans developed by Ukraine itself and those prepared by bodies such as the European Investment Bank. The private sector’s willingness to invest billions in Ukraine will depend on the country’s security and Ukraine’s ability to resist the clutches of oligarchs.
Denys Shmyhal, the Ukrainian prime minister, said Ukraine’s direct infrastructure losses amounted to more than $100bn, adding more than 1,200 educational institutions, 200 hospitals and thousands of kilometers of gas pipelines, water and electricity networks, roads and railways had been destroyed or damaged .
He said ordinary Ukrainians had submitted 200,000 entries to an open government e-map documenting incidents of destruction.
He claimed there would be three stages of recovery that together might need more than $750bn of investment, of which one third would be from the private sector, and some from Russian reparations and asset freezes.
He said: “The Russian authorities unleashed this bloody war and caused this massive destruction, and should be held accountable for it.”
The first stage would be an immediate implementation plan starting with emergency humanitarian help, such as restoration of water supplies and bridges; a medium-term framework from 2023 to 2025 to bring back life to destroyed communities through reconstruction of schools, hospitals and housing, and finally a long-term modernization vision from 2026 to 2032 for a Ukrainian green digital economy that finally leaves the Soviet era behind , and prepares the country for any EU membership.
The draft framework, the subject of advice from more than 2,000 experts over six weeks, has proposals for regional plans sponsored by overseas states, and a 24-sector recovery plan intended to ensure sectors such as home energy and agriculture can meet EU standards, and secure 7% annual growth. But such is the hit to the Ukrainian economy that Kyiv needs another $30bn to stay afloat between now and December.
Shmyhal insisted Ukraine’s reform process would continue, claiming changes implemented before the invasion, including digitalization and decentralization of government, had contributed to the country’s resilience in the face of the Russian attack.
Ursula von der Leyen, the European Commission president, set out plans for an EU reconstruction platform to map out Ukraine’s investment needs, channel resources, shape strategic choices, and coordinate multilateral bodies, as well as private firms. The commission is looking at various ways to raise those funds including grants and loans, as well as joint borrowing, similar to the EU’s pandemic recovery fund.
She repeatedly highlighted the need for reform and transparency by the Ukrainian government to ensure corruption did not damage the integrity of any reconstruction programme. She said: “We have never done it at this scale before,” adding that donors would need to know not only their money served a good cause “but it will be spent efficiently and effectively with maximum impact for the people of Ukraine”.
Olena Zelenska, the president’s wife, told the conference future spiritual reconstruction would be as important as material reconstruction.
Ukraine currently has 8 million internally displaced people, 6 million forced abroad, most of whom are children, and 22,000 teachers no longer working. She showed photos of destroyed schools and hospitals and said in the modern world this could not be viewed as someone else’s war.