Ukraine Pushes For Loans To Meet Shortfall

MUNICH, Germany -- Ukraine has appealed for emergency loans from the world’s richest countries to help support its economy, which has been battered by the global financial crisis.

Yulia Tymoshenko in Munich, Germany.

Yulia Tymoshenko, prime minister of Ukraine, said her government had sent letters to the US, Russia, China, Japan and the European Union asking for loans to fill a shortfall in budget revenues for this year.

“We have already received a positive response from some countries, including Russia,” Ms Tymoshenko said at the Munich Security Conference at the weekend. “Russia is ready to sign such loan agreements.” She did not clarify how much Kiev was seeking to borrow but reports in Ukraine suggested Russia could lend $5bn (€3.9bn, £3.4bn).

Ms Tymoshenko said Ukraine was keen to harmonise relations with Moscow, soured after last month’s gas prices dispute. She insisted Kiev would stick to a western integration agenda that included efforts to join the European Union and Nato.

News that Ukraine was seeking emergency loans amid frozen credit markets comes days after a senior International Monetary Fund delegation warned of “serious problems” brewing in Ukraine’s economy.

The fund delegation ended its one-week visit to Kiev last week but provided no clear signal on whether it would grant further disbursements from a $16.5bn standby facility agreed last year.

Ukraine received a first tranche of $4.5bn last November. Future disbursements depend on the implementation of tough conditions and are needed to keep Ukraine’s currency, the hryvnia, stable. It lost nearly 40 per cent of its value in 2008.

The IMF’s concerns centre on Kiev’s 2009 budget, which has a 3 per cent deficit in spite of a fund stipulation it be deficit-free. It also seeks a freeze on social spending at a time when more than 1m out of a population of 46m have lost their jobs.

Ukraine’s gross domestic product is expected to contract by around 5 per cent this , thus curbing budget revenues, complicating the state’s ability to rescue shaky banks and to provide unemployment benefits.

Ukraine is struggling to tame annual inflation of more than 20 per cent and to adjust to a fourth stiff price rise on natural gas imports from Russia in as many years.

The US and other western nations are keen to stabilise Ukraine for geopolitical as well as economic purposes, given its important position in Eastern Europe as a neighbour of Russia.

Source: Financial Times