Ukraine president plans land reform, large privatizations

FILE PHOTO: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy addresses lawmakers during the first session of newly-elected parliament in Kiev, Ukraine August 29, 2019. REUTERS/Gleb Garanich

KIEV (Reuters) - Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy ordered his new government to submit a draft law for land market reform by the start of October and to prepare large-scale privatizations of state companies starting in April next year.

Zelenskiy has pledged to lift a longstanding ban on the sale of farmland, a move that supporters say will unlock enormous opportunities for investment in the agriculture sector of one of the world’s largest grain exporters.

It is part of a push to make Ukraine more attractive to investors and tackle entrenched corruption. The country’s economy has been propped up by Western aid since the 2014 Maidan protests and the outbreak of a conflict with Russian-backed forces in the eastern Donbass region of Ukraine.

Speaking at a televised meeting alongside his newly appointed Prime Minister Oleksiy Honcharuk, Zelenskiy said he wanted parliament to “adopt a law on the agricultural land market and lift the moratorium on the sale of land by Dec. 1, 2019.

“Now we have a unique situation, a unique chance to carry out all necessary reforms. We have everything for this: the political will of the president, the majority in the Verkhovna Rada (parliament), the government and the prime minister ready to work,” Zelenskiy said.

He also announced a special law for the protection of foreign investment -- the details of which were not specified -- by the start of January.

Zelenskiy’s Servant of the People party won 254 of 450 seats in parliamentary elections in July, the first time a ruling president’s party has won an absolute majority in the legislature and the right to independently form a government.

Reporting by Natalia Zinets; Writing by Matthias Williams,; Editing by Peter Graff and Ed Osmond