EPISODE THREE: Trade Facilitation in Ukraine 2021: Smuggling and Gray Imports, Customs Corruption

On December 2, 2021, the Institute for Economic Research and Policy Consulting (IER) presented the third episode of a survey of Ukrainian exporters and importers on smuggling, “gray imports” and corruption at customs. The research was conducted under the project ” Support of the Civil Society Initiative “For Fair and Transparent Customs” with the support of the European Union, the Renaissance Foundation and the Atlas Network.

One third of entrepreneurs believe that informal relations with the government are important for business success – the results of business surveys

According to respondents, in 2021 the share of “commodity smuggling” or “gray imports” in the market is 21.1%. This is less than in 2020 and 2018 (24.2% and 25.3% respectively). At the same time, in 2021, almost 74% of enterprises were able to estimate the share of “gray imports” in their market, which is more than in the previous two waves of the survey.

According to business, in order to eliminate “gray imports” from the market, it is necessary to simplify and reduce the cost of customs procedures, as well as to counteract “cargo companies” and create control systems for goods from import to sale.

More than ¾ respondents support the criminalization of smuggling of commercial goods. 51.4% propose to introduce criminal liability without imprisonment. 27.2% are in favor of criminal liability with imprisonment. 15.5% of surveyed entrepreneurs oppose criminalization.

36.5% of respondents believe that informal relations with at least one authority are important for business success. This is less than in the previous three waves of the survey, when respondents were asked this question. Among the three most important in terms of “friendship” for business authorities – customs, tax and law enforcement.

In 2021, the share of entrepreneurs facing corruption at customs has increased. In 2021, respondents were more likely to cite corruption and bribery as a problem at customs than in 2020, although they are not among the main obstacles to business, said IER Executive Director Oksana Kuziakiv. “The importance of corruption is diminishing compared to other barriers to exports and imports that we have identified this year,” she added.

According to Iryna Fedets, a senior researcher at the IER, the assessment of customs work is directly related to the assessment of the level of corruption. “The lower the level of corruption, according to entrepreneurs, the better they asses the work of customs. Therefore, the general impression of the work of customs of exporters and importers, including based on their views on corruption at customs, ” she said.

Materials of the event:

The survey was conducted using a computer- assisted quantitative telephone survey (CATI — computer assisted telephone interviews). All interviews were conducted with company representatives who can assess the economic situation of the company and the conditions of foreign economic activity (owners, directors, deputy directors, chief accountants, department heads or deputy heads of departments related to exports or imports).


The survey involved 1,006 enterprises from all over Ukraine, except for the temporarily occupied Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol, as well as some regions of Donetsk and Luhansk regions that are not controlled by the Government of Ukraine.


This is the sixth wave of the IED survey. The previous ones were held in 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018 and in 2020.

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