Reconstruction of Ukraine ‘should start now’

The message from the Rebuild Ukraine conference at Intermat was that reconstruction efforts had already begun and contractors and suppliers should get involved now rather than waiting for the war to end.

The Rebuild Ukraine conference held on the second day of Intermat. (Image: KHL)

Nataliia Kozlovska, Ukraine’s deputy minister for communities, territories and infrastructure development, told the packed event that rebuilding work had been proceeding since very early in the conflict, and that the scale of work required was enormous.

“As of today, local government tell us that more than 360,000 structures have been destroyed by Russia, and the majority is housing”, said Kozlovska.

She said Ukraine was aiming to build back better; “We should rebuild with innovative methods…and we need a comprehensive European effort. Ukraine can become a platform for innovative approaches.”

The latest World Bank estimate of rebuilding costs is almost US$500 billion, with $100 billion of that in the form of building materials and machinery.

Ukraine’s ambassador to France, Vadyn Omelchenko, said president Zelenski had started talking about rebuilding even during the early months of the war; “It was strange to hear. The president was already looking forward.”

Omelchenko said French president Macron had been supportive from the start, “His message to French companies was, we have to go now, not when the war has ended.”

The conference heard from a representative of Kiev’s regional government, Mykyta Gerashchenko, about rebuilding works underway, with 17,600 structures rebuilt of the more than 29,000 destroyed or damaged in the region since the start of the war, including more than 17,000 new homes.

One area of work is to build shelters within each school to allow in-person teaching to continue. Almost 1,200 such structures have already been completed in Kiev, but many hundreds more are needed.

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Find local partners
The Business France organisation, which jointly organised the conference, said that it was essential for contractors and others in the construction industry to get involved now and to find local partners.

“Ukraine is not an easy country, [even] without war”, said the organisation’s Romain Deshieux. “The most important thing is to find the right partner. With the right partner, it will be smooth, easy and you can make money.”

Some French suppliers are already working in the country. Phillippe Chican, export manager with formwork manufacturer Hussar, said his company was cooperating with a partner in Ukraine to develop formwork that can be rapidly and easily deployed in Ukraine.

Lev Partskhaladze of the Confederation of Builders of Ukraine, said the country was reforming its legal and regulatory frameworks in the context of its candidacy to become a member of the EU; “Now in Ukraine it’s a good moment to invest in construction…We are looking forward to greeting you in Ukraine. Let’s rebuild a European Ukraine.”

The French government has been proactive in discussing the rebuilding of the country and was the first G7 country to appoint a special envoy for relief and reconstruction. The envoy, Pierre Heilbronn, told delegates that reconstruction efforts should be seen in the context of a transformation of Ukraine into an EU country, beyond the basic rebuilding of infrastructure.

He added that the government had put in place measures, including funding and insurance schemes for French businesses working in Ukraine, that made it possible to start work now; “All these instruments are in the tool box, and we are building instruments at the European level as well.”

“Investment in Ukraine today is investment in a future EU state”, said Heilbronn, “That should open eyes to what is at stake.”

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