Volodymyr Groysman is Prime Minister of Ukraine.
Last week in Ukraine, we made history.
For the first time, more than 100,000 top officials, including the President of Ukraine, members of the cabinet of ministers, MPs, judges, prosecutors and civil servants, have declared their assets under my government's new e-declaration system. This has only been possible thanks to the recent implementation of one of the most progressive declaration systems for public servants in the world.
A statement endorsed by all of Ukraine's major civil-society organizations – none of whom has been shy to criticize authorities – hailed the system as "a truly revolutionary step toward eradicating corruption" in Ukraine. These organizations have also noted that the quality of the declarations has exceeded expectations, and activists and journalists are already investigating the origins of cash and valuable assets that have been declared by top officials. This is shining a light on the highest levels of power in Ukraine and things will never be the same again.
Achieving this was not easy, and on our path to greater transparency, we encountered many obstacles. The media, civil society and the public were skeptical until the last moment. The guardians of the old system were doing everything possible to prevent this and other changes we have made to stamp out corruption. I well remember the difficulties we had pushing this law through Parliament as I was speaker at the time. Last summer, the e-declaration system was delayed and for a moment, it looked as though it would fail. But the government stayed firm and we managed to overcome the obstacles.
I was one of the first top-level Ukrainian officials to declare his assets on the e-declaration system. I will also be the first to say that I am ready for my declaration to be scrutinized. I believe that all Ukrainian public servants should have to explain the origin of their assets, and in cases where violations are uncovered, they should be punished under the law.
The e-declaration system allows us to draw a line between politicians of Ukraine's past, who have never explained the origins of their assets, and politicians of its future, who from now on will be accountable to the people and who must explain where they got their money. After the Revolution of Dignity, we were fortunate that many talented people who were successful in business decided to enter public service. We need people like this in order to build a successful country.
The new system is an important step in the process of stamping out corruption in Ukraine, but it is far from the final step. My cabinet of ministers will provide absolute support to the National Anti-Corruption Bureau, which our government created. It has 175 detectives tasked with investigating corruption and preparing cases for the newly created Specialized Anti-Corruption Prosecutor's Office in order to bring perpetrators to justice.
As my own declaration has shown, I am not the poorest man in Ukraine, although I am also far from the richest. I entered politics in 2006 as a successful businessman, since when I have declared my income. However, I am well aware that many people in my country still have very few economic opportunities, and some live below the poverty line. The gap between rich and poor in Ukraine is a large part of what has made the declarations shocking for many citizens.
Improving this situation is my government's top priority. There is still much work to be done, but we are making real progress in implementing our reform agenda with the ultimate goal of improving economic prospects for Ukrainians.
In addition to the reforms we have made to combat corruption, we have also taken steps to modernize our judiciary, transform the national police force and cut red tape to improve the environment for business and foreign investment in Ukraine. We have also liberalized our energy markets, an important reform also intended to combat corruption, which faced considerable opposition from vested interests. This year, the economy will grow by 1.5 per cent, with 3 per cent predicted for 2017. Inflation has fallen dramatically, from 43 per cent in 2015 to 12 per cent this year and 8 per cent forecast for next year. The Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area between Ukraine and the European Union came into force on Jan. 1, creating substantial economic benefits for both sides, and last summer, we signed the Canada-Ukraine free-trade agreement.
As Prime Minister, my top priority is stabilizing the country and growing the economy so that all Ukrainians can have the chance to succeed and improve their standard of living. In order to achieve this, we must lay down strong foundations on which we can build a modern European state. The e-declaration system is a major milestone in the process.