By MARTY LEVINE
If Tymofiy Mylovanov is not yet one of Pitt’s highest profile professors, he is probably its most politically powerful: this economics faculty member is now Minister of Economic Development, Trade, and Agriculture for Ukraine.
Like Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who was elected in April, Mylovanov had no prior political experience before his appointment to Zelensky’s cabinet. But Mylovanov, who came to Pitt in 2013 and is now an associate professor, has been working toward reforms in his native country since he saw protests overthrow a previous Ukrainian government in 2014, in what Ukraine calls the “revolution of dignity.”
“It matters to me because it was in my town — people got killed” in the government response to the protests in Kyiv, he says.
That revolution exposed corruption at the highest level of Ukrainian politics, as well as papers detailing Donald Trump’s soon-to-be campaign manager Paul Manafort’s role therein (and no, Mylovanov can’t answer any questions about American politics, he says, when the subject of Trump’s possible impeachment over an alleged quid pro quo request of Zelensky is broached).
But the revolution sparked Mylovanov’s involvement in Ukraine’s economic future. He co-founded VoxUkraine, an economic collaborative focusing on formulating new policies for Ukraine. By 2016, the Ukrainian parliament had elected him to the Council of the National Bank of Ukraine, after which he was made its deputy chairman. He is also the honorary president of the Kyiv School of Economics.
Still, Mylovanov, who was officially appointed to the job in August, had met Ukraine’s future president only once or twice prior to being hired, he says, although he had been acquainted earlier with Prime Minister Oleksiy Honcharuk. “They probably looked at me and thought it was an OK choice” for the ministerial post, he says modestly.
Today he runs an office with hundreds of employees, doing a job that has “387 functions,” he reports, from maintaining consumer protections for agricultural products to drafting policies about corporate governance and the labor market: “You name it — tons of things,” he says. The country’s number one economic priority is developing a private land market, which does not yet exist, even though, as he points out, “We have one of the largest stocks of arable land in the world.”
Ukraine is also a country at war following Russia’s annexation of Crimea and that country’s continued attempts to influence Ukraine’s future. It’s a war being fought with both conventional and cyber weapons, Mylovanov points out, and that has an economic impact. “It’s definitely not your standard policy-making environment,” he says.
If most Americans likely know anything about Mylovanov’s boss, President Zelensky, it’s that he made his name as a television comedian. Mylovanov knows the president a bit better now: “He’s a great guy — he’s just a professional. He is not a populist. He is a businessman, so he has a different take relative to me. He is probably the best president we’ve had” in Ukraine’s 28 years of independence in the modern era.
“He comes across as a person who has a very shrewd mind,” Mylovanov adds
Zelensky also is Ukraine’s first Jewish president. “Things are changing here, and it is a good thing,” Mylovanov says. “We’ll see how things work out. There are a lot of pressures from a lot of directions. I think these are the types of people needed to change the system.”
Mylovanov says his shift from professor to minister was not as jarring as one might imagine and assures: “I am coming back — when I’m done here. I’m on leave until the beginning of next academic year. We’ll see.
“I might have to be interrupted to step into the prime minister’s office,” he warns a minute later.
And soon after, he was off.
Marty Levine is a staff writer for the University Times. Reach him at email@example.com or 412-758-4859.
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