Friday, October 21, 2011

Ease of Doing Business in Former Soviet Union Countries

The countries of the Former Soviet Union (FSU) share a common legacy but have taken very different economic paths during the past 20 years. This report on the ease of doing business may be of interest to many readers. 183 countries were ranked, including all FSU countries except Turkmenistan.

Below are FSU countries listed by number in the ranking with their change in position from 2010 to 2011, annual GNI (gross national income, which fails to account for the shadow economy) per capita, and population in millions. Follow the links to get more information about each country's rating.

16. Georgia (+1) / $2690 / 4.6 million
21. Latvia (+10) / $11620 / 2.2
24. Estonia (-6) / $14360 / 1.3
27. Lithuania (-2) / $11400 / 3.2
47. Kazakhstan (+11) / $7440 / 16.6
55. Armenia (+6) / $3060 / 3.3
66. Azerbaijan (+3) / $5180 / 9.2
69. Belarus (+22) / $6030 / 9.5
70. Kyrgyzstan (-3) / $880 / 5.5
81. Moldova (+18) / $1810 / 3.6
120. Russia (+4) / $9910 / 142.9
147. Tajikistan (+5) / $780 / 8.0
152. Ukraine (-3) / $3010 / 45.9 (download full report here)
166. Uzbekistan (-2) / $1280 / 27.6

Average change in rating from 2010 to 2011 for FSU countries: +4.6
Average GNI: $5675, or $3824 not including Baltic states, which are the three wealthiest per capita with an average GNI of $12460

  • Georgia is the lowest-GNI country in the top 44.
  • Belarus and Kazakhstan are both substantially higher-income and easier for doing business than Ukraine.
  • Ukraine is ranked lowest in Europe in terms of ease of doing business.
  • Russia is three times wealthier per capita but nearly as hard to do business in as Ukraine.
  • The 3 Baltic states (Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania) are at nearly the same level of income and ease of doing business, as are the 3 Transcaucasian states (Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan).
  • Of the Central Asian republics, Kazakhstan is both by far the wealthiest and the easiest for doing business.
  • Among the bottom 35 countries, Ukraine is 3rd in terms of income per capita. Only Venezuela and Angola are "better off."
  • Most of the most populous FSU countries (Russia, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, and Kazakhstan) are in the bottom half of the ranking, while all of the least populous (Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Armenia, Moldova, and Georgia) are in the top half.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Visa Requirements for Ukrainians to Travel to Countries Around the World

Many of you may find this article at Wikipedia useful.

As you can see, many countries in Latin America, Africa, Asia, and the former USSR are accessible to Ukrainians for visa-free or visa-upon-arrival travel. Naturally, these are not the countries most Ukrainians are interested in visiting. А зря! Latin America offers quite a nice lifestyle with a culture more compatible with Ukrainian/Russian culture than most western nations. Turkey, Iran, Kenya, Namibia, Nepal, and Thailand are fantastic travel destinations. And Russia and the 'Stans cover an enormous portion of the Earth's land surface.

Compare Ukrainians' opportunities with those of Russian citizens. The latter have some advantages, particularly with regards to South America, most of which offers Russian citizens visa-free travel. Otherwise, the maps are quite similar.

Moving to Sevastopol

Who would've thought that after 9 years in Kiev I would move to another city in Ukraine? I like Kiev and have a myriad of activities, friends, and contacts there to keep my busy. But for the past several years I have felt that Kiev is not a place I would like to settle long term. It is too big, too polluted, too far from any mountains or other areas of outstanding natural beauty, and the real estate is too costly for me to realistically buy anything decent in the foreseeable future.

The realization that I would not be able to stay in Ukraine long-term anyway because of the immigration restrictions led me to begin thinking about spending more time elsewhere. Just a week later, I began planning my move to Sevastopol, Crimea. Here I will also be subject to the 90/180 rule, but there are big advantages here for me. I can live at my own dacha, carefully chosen in a convenient location just outside the city.

Dacha plots are not available for purchase by foreign citizens unless they have been privatized. Privatized plots cost quite a bit more. 6 or 7 years ago a Ukrainian friend and I bought an unprivatized plot together on her name and began the privatization process, which is standard and can be arranged for a set fee so that the owners just pay and forget about it. A year or so later, the process was completed.

I am a geographer (by nature, if not yet by profession), and I understand that location is everything. Here are the criteria we considered when choosing the plot:
  • close to bus stops where city buses run
  • walking distance to an awesome beach (arguably the most scenic in the region)
  • at least a few neighbors live at their dacha year-round
  • some investment in construction is taking place in the vicinity
  • electricity and water
  • not too close to the water that seaspray would suppress plant growth
Furthermore, because Crimean cities are small, it is realistic to live at a dacha just outside the city and enjoy the benefits of city life while living in a more tranquil location. In Kiev this is basically impossible due to the large size of the city.

Crimea has tons of scenic variety — sea, mountains, cities, historical sites, etc. — plus great numbers of tourists from all over Ukraine and the former USSR. Many places in Crimea attract interesting types of people — artists, scientists, wanderers, adherents of various teachings, etc.

I have long felt that this might be the best place for me within Ukraine in terms of lifestyle. Until a few years ago I was basically tied down to Kiev because of work, but now I can work from anywhere if I have Internet.

In the past year a modest house has been built on the dacha plot, and at the moment some relatives of my friend are installing the electrical wiring. Within a month this place will be quite liveable, albeit with primitive "facilities."

Now I am beginning to establish a social life in Sevastopol and Crimea. I already have some acquaintances here, and I've established a Spanish conversation club in town. All Spanish speakers are invited, particularly natives. My daily routine includes a hike down to the spectacular "Jasper Beach," with nearly 800 steps leading down a 170 m high slope to the secluded beach below (see some photos here). It's just a short bus ride away to a kind of avtovokzal (bus station) where one can take buses to destinations in the hills to the east where all the good hiking begins. From the dacha to the center of Sevastopol it's typically about a 40 minute trip, which is average for living in Kiev. But here I breathe fresh air and live in my own house.

The plot cost $4500 USD, as much as $12-15k will be invested total in the house and landscaping, the rent is nonexistent, and utilities amount to about $10 a month.