11 August 2022

Ukraine should understand itself and elaborate on its value proposition. That was the key idea of Christian Ketels, a Harvard Business School professor’s lecture within MIM-Kyiv’s ReInforceUA project. Dr. Ketels is a prominent researcher of competitiveness, economic policy, and strategy. He has run competitiveness projects in Europe, North America, and Asia.

Here are the highlights of his presentation.

- Competition will define the future of Ukraine. Currently, it is the battlefield that decides its future. After the war population competitiveness and social positioning will shape the country. It is high time to learn about competitive research findings to create a competitive economy in the nearest future.

- Ukrainian companies need to survive, continue to work, pay salaries, and offer goods and services to Ukrainians. Stabilizing the country is one of the top priorities and discussion points. The post-war restoration is important, however, reinventing the sources of competitiveness is key.

- According to Michael Porter, competitiveness is the foundation for wealth creation. Competitive countries are productive countries as well. Productivity is the matrix of competitiveness. Many view competitiveness as a race. It means that they need to be high performers. That means that you need to operate in a high-performing environment rather than be better than your neighbor.

- Various economists view the top drivers of competitiveness differently. Some trust in intensification, others think skills are the key, etc. In fact, it is a puzzle where each little piece matter. Many small steps make you more competitive. You should understand your unique situation and think about what can improve it. There is no magic bullet. You need to select the priorities to secure your country’s progress.

- Competitiveness is teamwork. We should bring together business and academia. You cannot directly control either of them, but you can promote dialogue between them and help them move in the same direction. Each should understand what their private company or governmental agency needs to do to secure national progress.

- What does the neighbor’s invasion mean for the country? Although we have experience in dealing with various crises, such as a pandemic or financial crunch, the war is very different. The disaster helps us understand how to enhance the systems. The war damage is huge, many people left the country. The wider context is gaining importance. In other words, policies, and institutions’’ roles will only be increasing. Pandemic changed the situation dramatically. The global context started to prevail over the local one. Thus, we should not limit ourselves to thinking about the Ukrainian context only.

- During the pandemic we studied the ways to derive opportunities from the crisis. We looked at historical perspectives of crises. Our macroeconomic results deteriorated but was it a good starting point for further development? On average, people get poorer in crises and have more problems. On the other hand, crises undermine the institutional structure and eliminate bad political choices that are unrelated to the working economy, and help to become a better country. It is critical to make the right choices. The question is what institutional structures your society can build after the war and how it can impact competitiveness.

- We see that comparing GDP per capita is not enough. We should think about social progress, access to opportunities, governmental services, etc. Ukraine shows quite progress and your citizens should be able to use your achievements. Creating a country where most citizens will be a success. You need to be strong, firm, and think about sustainability and the environment. You also should have a social discussion about your future rather than having others tell you what to do. You also need to assess the situation followed by difficult choices. You will have to decide where to compete and which direction to choose. After that, the planning is going to be easy because it is your choice. Not everyone will agree but everyone should understand the direction and how we want to move along.

You can see the recording of the lecture after the registration on the ReInforceUA site. Please find the main point of Dr. Ketels presentation.