Week's balance: Cabinet allows reopening of non-food markets, Rada eases taxes for businesses pending quarantine, hryvnia beefs up
The Cabinet of Ministers decided to open non-food markets across country, the Verkhovna Rada eased tax pressure on businesses for the quarantine period and supported the arts and entertainment industries, while the national currency showed a slight, but steady growth.
In the past week, Ukrainians could once again enjoy long-forgotten walks in parks earlier banned due to tough quarantine and visit the reopened non-grocery stores, while some lucky ones booked an appointment with their hairdresser. Meanwhile, the government approved a series of new quarantine concessions.
At an extraordinary meeting, the Cabinet of Ministers decided to allow the reopening of non-food markets that had been closed for two months.
"If non-grocery stores operate, markets must also be opened. Under the same conditions as food markets: with all safety measures applied to minimize the risks of infection," said President Volodymyr Zelensky.
This means that soon in Ukraine, clothing, furniture, household, and other markets will start operating in compliance with the usual rules: sanitizing, face masks, and social distancing.
The Cabinet of Ministers allowed Ukrainians to move outside in groups of up to eight (previously it was two) and eased restrictions on the operation of open-air terraces and verandas in restaurants and cafes with up to four patrons per table.
Also in the past week, the Cabinet presented a program for creating half a million jobs. Most officials plan to create them in the field of road construction and transport infrastructure (154,000). Another 150,000 – in the field of municipal services, and 85,000 – in agriculture.
The government also intends to create jobs in micro and small businesses and stimulate entrepreneurship. The Cabinet says that for half of these ideas, budget money has already been found.
"There is money in place. We will now finalize along with other ministries the procedure for its allocation," said Minister for Development of Economy, Trade, and Agriculture Ihor Petrashko.
It is worth noting that the official number of unemployed persons in Ukraine reached 487,000 in May.
Parliament supports businesses
Last week, the Verkhovna Rada at an extraordinary meeting contributed to the noble cause of supporting private entrepreneurs.
Legislators extended tax incentives for businesses for the period of quarantine. Sanctions shall not be applied over violations of tax laws committed from March 1 and penalty shall not be accrued until the last calendar day of the month when the quarantine ends. At the same time, the moratorium on conducting audit was extended, while individuals-entrepreneurs were exempted from paying a single social contribution until May 31, 2020.
Deputies voted to allow self-employed persons not to pay a single social contribution, which excludes double payment of this tax by individual entrepreneurs who are also listed as self-employed. But seniority and pension payments to such persons will not be accrued.
Also, the Rada adopted at first reading a bill on state support for art, creative industries, and tourism, which were most affected by restrictive measures.
The bill introduces grants to support these industries and soften taxation. For these purposes, it is proposed to allocate UAH 600 million from the Stabilization Fund for financing measures to combat the pandemic.
"By this law, we offer mitigation for the period of quarantine and until year-end. We are introducing a grant support system for the spheres of culture, creative industry, and tourism," said Oleksandr Tkachenko, head of the Verkhovna Rada Committee on humanitarian and information policy.
On the eve of the vote on the bill, industry representatives in Kyiv and other large cities across Ukraine held a "Stop Cultural Quarantine" flash mob, illuminating the night sky with hundreds of massive light beams. In this way, activists wanted to draw the attention of the authorities and public to the problems of art and entertainment industries, which have been incurring great losses since quarantine start.
By the way, from May 18, the Rada decided to resume its work in regular mode, although face masks remain a must.
Stable hryvnia and long-awaited IKEA launch
In the past week, the national currency saw a slight strengthening, beefing up against the dollar for several days in a row. Early this week, the hryvnia rate stood at UAH 27.05 to the dollar and on Friday it reached the level of UAH 26.67 at the NBU official.
There is an upward trend, especially compared with pre-quarantine indicators of early March when the Ukrainian currency fell to UAH 28 to the dollar, although in January-February, the dollar traded for UAH 24. But, obviously, the consequences of a coronacrisis won't let the hryvnia rebound so much anytime soon.
However, in recent days, the hryvnia showed relative stability, having fixed at around UAH 26.7 to the dollar.
Against this background, domestic farmers accelerated the pace of grain supplies and approached the completion of the export season, selling overseas a significant 52.4 million tonnes of the planned 52 million.
Meanwhile, the largest global furniture and household retail chain IKEA has finally launched operations in Ukraine. For the moment, Ukrainians are only able to order products online with home delivery or pick up orders in Kyiv.
Next week, Ukraine may enter a new phase of quarantine relaxation. From May 22, the government intends to allow the reopening of kindergartens, a partial relaunch of public transport, as well as the start of sports competitions and school finals.
Prerequisites for such easing are in place: for the first time in Ukraine in a day, from Wednesday to Thursday, the number of coronavirus recoveries exceeded that of new cases. However, the total count of over 17,000 patients across country stresses the need to wear face masks and not treat own health frivolously.