IMF Executive Board Completes First Review of Ukraine’s EFF and Approves US$1.7 Billion Disbursement

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY The economy is still fragile, but signs of stabilization are emerging. The escalation of the conflict in the East and the sharp depreciation of the hryvnia in early 2015 deepened the recession in 2015:Q1, raised inflation, and eroded further bank balance sheets. In recent months, however, signs of stabilization have been emerging. The balance of payments is in line with the program and the exchange rate has stabilized, retail hryvnia deposits are gradually increasing, the budget deficit is very low, and the pace of economic decline is moderating. The authorities have made a strong start in implementing the program. All performance criteria (PCs) for end-March 2015 and, based on preliminary information, all PCs for end-June were met. Eight benchmarks were completed, albeit four of them with a delay and two were converted into prior actions for this review. Discussions with creditors have made progress towards a debt operation that would restore fiscal sustainability. The engagement has intensified recently with direct negotiations with the ad hoc creditor committee on the authorities’ restructuring proposal. The two sides reported further steps forward in their discussions and reiterated their common objective to finalize the terms of the debt operation as soon as possible. Policy discussions focused on strengthening macroeconomic stability and sustaining progress in structural reforms. Supporting policies in the period ahead aim to: (i) continue the current prudent monetary policy, maintain exchange rate flexibility, and improve banks’ financial health; (ii) strengthen public finances, via fiscal consolidation and Naftogaz’s reform, while revamping the social safety net; and (iii) advance structural reforms, specifically the anti-corruption framework and judicial system, overhaul the State- Owned Enterprise (SOE) sector, and improve business climate. In view of the authorities’ performance under the program, their policy commitments for the period ahead, and progress toward a debt operation in line with its stated objectives, staff recommends the completion of the first review. The purchase released upon completion of the review would be in the amount equivalent to SDR 1,182.1 million.

Abstract

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY The economy is still fragile, but signs of stabilization are emerging. The escalation of the conflict in the East and the sharp depreciation of the hryvnia in early 2015 deepened the recession in 2015:Q1, raised inflation, and eroded further bank balance sheets. In recent months, however, signs of stabilization have been emerging. The balance of payments is in line with the program and the exchange rate has stabilized, retail hryvnia deposits are gradually increasing, the budget deficit is very low, and the pace of economic decline is moderating. The authorities have made a strong start in implementing the program. All performance criteria (PCs) for end-March 2015 and, based on preliminary information, all PCs for end-June were met. Eight benchmarks were completed, albeit four of them with a delay and two were converted into prior actions for this review. Discussions with creditors have made progress towards a debt operation that would restore fiscal sustainability. The engagement has intensified recently with direct negotiations with the ad hoc creditor committee on the authorities’ restructuring proposal. The two sides reported further steps forward in their discussions and reiterated their common objective to finalize the terms of the debt operation as soon as possible. Policy discussions focused on strengthening macroeconomic stability and sustaining progress in structural reforms. Supporting policies in the period ahead aim to: (i) continue the current prudent monetary policy, maintain exchange rate flexibility, and improve banks’ financial health; (ii) strengthen public finances, via fiscal consolidation and Naftogaz’s reform, while revamping the social safety net; and (iii) advance structural reforms, specifically the anti-corruption framework and judicial system, overhaul the State- Owned Enterprise (SOE) sector, and improve business climate. In view of the authorities’ performance under the program, their policy commitments for the period ahead, and progress toward a debt operation in line with its stated objectives, staff recommends the completion of the first review. The purchase released upon completion of the review would be in the amount equivalent to SDR 1,182.1 million.

The Executive Board of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) today completed the first review of Ukraine’s Extended Arrangement under the Extended Fund Facility (EFF). The completion of this review enables the disbursement of SDR 1,182.1 million (about US$1.7 billion), which would bring total disbursements under the arrangement to SDR 4.72 billion (about US$6.68 billion).

Ukraine’s four-year SDR 12.348 billion (about US$17.5 billion) EFF was approved on March 11, 2015 (see Press Release No. 14/189) to support the government’s economic program, which aims to put the economy on the path to recovery, restore external sustainability, strengthen public finances, maintain financial stability, and support economic growth by advancing structural and governance reforms, while protecting the most vulnerable.

Following the Executive Board’s discussion, Mr. David Lipton, First Deputy Managing Director and Acting Chair, said:

“The Ukrainian economy remains fragile, but encouraging signs are emerging. In recent months, the exchange rate has stabilized, domestic-currency retail deposits have been increasing, and the pace of economic decline is moderating. Continued prudent policies and further reforms should allow the economy to turn the corner and growth to resume in the period ahead.

“Since the approval of a financial arrangement under the IMF’s Extended Fund Facility, the authorities have made a strong start in implementing their economic program. The momentum needs to be sustained, as significant structural and institutional reforms are still needed to address economic imbalances that held Ukraine back in the past.

“Maintaining an appropriately tight monetary policy and building up official foreign exchange reserves will be critical to entrench external stability and anchor inflation expectations. As disinflation takes root, monetary policy can be carefully eased to support economic activity. Removal of administrative measures on foreign exchange operations should proceed in a gradual and sequenced manner, once the enabling conditions are in place.

“Restoring a sound banking system is key for economic recovery. To this end, the strategy to strengthen banks through recapitalization, reduction of related-party lending, and resolution of impaired assets should be implemented decisively.

“The authorities recognize that continued fiscal discipline is needed to reduce risks and strengthen public finances. Strong political support should be mobilized to sustain budgetary consolidation and energy sector reforms going forward, while ensuring an adequate social safety net. At the same time, restoring debt sustainability will require the completion of a debt operation consistent with program objectives. The authorities and the holders of their sovereign debt should continue their efforts to reach an agreement ahead of the next program review. In the event that talks with private creditors stall, and Ukraine determines that it cannot service this debt, the Fund could continue to lend to Ukraine consistent with its Lending-into-Arrears Policy.

“Further substantial progress with structural reforms is essential to enable strong recovery of private activity. In this regard, efforts to fight corruption, improve the business climate, and reform state-owned enterprises should be stepped up.”