Ukraine leaders pledge unity, overhauls for IMF loans

21:40, 16 December 2015
Politics
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Ukraine’s leaders pledged to put aside their differences and take measures to unlock loans from the International Monetary Fund, after weeks of squabbling strained the pro-Western coalition and delayed the latest bailout tranche, according to The Wall Street Journal.

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The statement, signed by the president, prime minister and chairman of parliament and released late Tuesday, tried to draw a line under infighting in the coalition, The Wall Street Journal reports.

Some allies of President Petro Poroshenko have called for the dismissal of Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk, but the statement said this issue was “not on the agenda.”

“We should find a solution within this coalition. If we have new elections and political destabilization we won’t have any reforms in this period,” Borys Lozhkin, the president’s chief of staff, said in an interview.

If there were snap elections, “we wouldn’t change the country, we’ll just change the faces,” Mr. Lozhkin continued.

The leaders also said they would amend the country’s tax code and adopt a budget for 2016. Some of Mr. Poroshenko’s own supporters had proposed a radical alternative which, according to the Ministry of Finance, would have blown a hole in the budget and forced Ukraine out of the IMF program.

The delays in passing a budget had held up disbursements of around $2 billion from the IMF, which Ukraine needs as it battles a recession amid a conflict with Russian-backed separatists in its east. But Mr. Lozhkin said a compromise has been reached that should satisfy the IMF, and a vote on the bill should take place on Thursday.

“It’s a compromise, but it’s the best compromise in today’s situation,” the chief of staff said.

Still, relations in the coalition remain tense.

The statement came after a visit to Ukraine last week by U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, who called for leaders to “put aside parochial differences” and avoid the same political instability that has brought down previous pro-Western governments.

Mr. Lozhkin, a polished businessman with fluent English, conceded that overhauls to unwieldy state bureaucracy and progress on fighting corruption had been slower than the president hoped, but said the government was “regrouping.”

Political stability, he said, would allow the types of overhauls next year that Western officials and some in the coalition say have been too slow. A privatization law will be adopted in the first quarter of next year, along with legislation to boost the local stock market, he said.

Most of the country’s 1,400 state companies will be sold, leaving around 200 state corporations in strategic sectors that will be restructured so that top managers receive competitive salaries and would be more likely to operate in the interests of the state, rather than those of tycoons, he said.

Mr. Lozhkin touted the recent appointment of an anticorruption prosecutor, and the establishment of the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine, which will function like the Federal Bureau of Investigation. They should start making headway early next year, he said.

“We need to show society and the Western world that we are ready and can do aggressive reforms,” Mr. Lozhkin said.

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