May 18, 1994  Kiev

           Quite a change from Tashkent. Except for the airport. It took three hours to get through that and Sideri came out without his bag. He was sure it was a Ukrainian problem, but a fax came from Amsterdam admitting KLMís guilt.

          The city is impressive. Most of it seems to have been built in pre-revolutionary days. Old buildings with character, decorative and sometimes gargoyles. We walked last evening through a nice part of town, ending in a park overlooking the Dnieper, the third largest river in Europe after the Volga and the Danube. The park was full of large trees and mosquitoes.


Kiev (Ukraine postcard)

          Today we met Dr. Tetiana Stepankova, director of the Center for Advanced Study, sometimes called the Center for Policy Studies; they havenít quite settled on the name. The Center is funded by George Soros. It has big ideas about leading the way to a market economy, doing the planning, drafting legislation and checking on implementation. Also training government servants and the parliament, and educating the public about market economics. And carrying out administrative reform. These are big ideas indeed; especially for a Center that occupies one room in the Institute of Public Administration.

          Bogdan Kravchenko stopped in for a few minutes. We later learned that is all he spends with anybody, except maybe Kravchuk, the President. Heís a fast talking, very confident Canadian with Ukrainian roots. He is close to Soros as well as the President.

          We were asked to begin the mission at this time in order to participate in a conference on the Ukraine in transition, which begins tomorrow. It is to be opened by the President, and feature cabinet ministers and such foreign visitors as Jeffrey Sachs from Harvard, and Soros. Multi luminaries. If all show up, it will be a feather in the Centerís cap.

          Sideri, my partner on the mission, seems to complain a lot. He doesnít like the food or the hotel, but I tell him that compared with Tashkent we are in the lap of luxury.

May 26, 1994   Kharkov

          This is more like it. After a week in Kiev, much of it taken up by an international economic conference, I was ready for a change of pace. The trip to Kharkov to visit a regional group was on again, off again. Sideri couldnít stand the thought of two nights on a train, 11 hours each way, so he wanted out. Then the Center decided to go by charter plane, the regular flight being sold out, so Sideri was in again. Then the charter flight was cancelled because too few people signed up, so he was out.

          We, Peter, a Canadian of Ukraine decent who works part time at the Center, and I, left Kiev at 9:20 pm after a long day. I had checked out of the hotel in the morning so I had dinner with Sideri but no shower or change of clothes. After lugging computer, tote bag and small briefcase through the crowded station and getting into a tiny, stuffy compartment, I felt grubby. There was barely room for us to sit on the bottom bunk. Bedding was provided, but the sheets were wet. No towels. Not enough light to read by.

          The train was fairly smooth, compared with the sleeping car we last had in Egypt, but it was hard to get comfortable on top of the coarse wool blanket I put over the wet sheets. It got cool enough so I had to sandwich myself between layers of the blanket, which wasnít big enough for the job. I was so grubby that I tried to lie so that my fingers didnít stick to each other. There was no water in the car, and in the toilet there was one cold tap but no paper or towels. Finally, at five thirty in the morning I used my undershirt for a washrag and my shirt for a towel and got decently clean.

          The train arrived on time and we were met by the head of the Kharkov group. Iíd met him at the conference in Kiev and wasnít sure about him. He took us first to a hotel where we took a room just for the day and then took off for a visit to a missile guidance factory. I couldnít figure out what we were doing there because we are here to evaluate the work and needs of the local research group, and neither could the Director of Marketing, who received us in the Directorís conference room. After a few preliminary remarks by either side, however, we got a very interesting account of the ways in which this plant, called Kartron, is dealing with the present situation. Kartron produces the guidance systems that allow Russian space vehicles to dock in space. They have 30,000 employees, and four years ago their entire production was for military or space purposes. Now they are at 60% to 70% and the proportion is continually dropping.

          They first diversified by building a control system for pipelines, after a pipeline blew up in the Urals because of poor control systems. Then they went into such things as car computers, electronically guided toys, and medical technology. They are negotiating a joint venture with Westinghouse, called Westron, which sounds close to fruition. On May 18 they sent a letter to Kiev requesting that they be privatized! This is not the usual attitude of a state enterprise. Most of them are begging for more subsidies, but this guy Bek says subsidies are bad for the enterprise and for the economy. He had nothing good to say about the Government. Kravchuk is an old party hack with no understanding of economics, and the rest of them are no better. He said the US and the World Bank ought to lean on the government to reform. Without changes in legislation, he said, they canít make a profit even if they are allowed to privatize. The tax system, the currency system, and the banking system all need to change, but Kartron is obviously not waiting for those things to happen.

          Next we went to see Robishnikís research group. It turns out that he heads a group of economists at a union of scientists, a non-university organization that does not necessarily exist elsewhere. They are professional researchers, working on contract research. Stepankova simply chose from a menu of topics they are interested in working on and signed a contract for it. She has agreed to a certain amount of research over the year, and will decide upon topics one at a time. Itís a much more professional group than I expected to find, although Iím in no position to judge the quality of their work. They have three computers in one small room, and one of their number is a computer programmer.

          After that visit we went back to the hotel for a rather elaborate lunch, which we had agreed to pay for. We were around fifteen people and we had tomato and onion salad, a good soup, and chicken Kiev, my fourth or fifth time around for that. I said that in America we called it chicken Kiev, but maybe it was really chicken Kharkov. They assured me that even in Kharkov they called it chicken Kiev. We had at least eight bottles of wine with the meal, two champagnes of a local variety, two reds and four whites. Toasts were always being made so the group got quite loquacious. After lunch they gave me around 45 minutes for a shower and change of clothes, then Robishnik came around for more discussions. He liked the idea of research proposal workshops such as we held in the ADDR project, and I think that will be a winner if we can find Russian or Ukrainian speaking researchers. May need to tie in with some Poles who speak Russian.

          We are on the train again tonight, but it is a much different train. First class was full so we bought all four berths in second class. It is a clean train with dry linen, a towel furnished, and even tea served. I think Iíll even sleep tonight with luck.

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