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Ukraine: Prime Minister Takes Optimistic View To Washington

Washington, 10 July 1989 (RFE/RL) -- Kyiv's top official dealing with economic reform, Deputy Prime Minister Serhiy Tyhypko, says "very drastic changes are underway in Ukraine" and the results will begin showing soon.

Tyhypko carried this message of optimism to Washington this week for meetings with senior American officials and with leaders of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank.

He headed a delegation of the country's top financial officials, including Finance Minister Ihor Mityukov, National Agency for Development and European Integration head Roman Shpeck, Economics Minister Vasyl Rohoviy and Central Bank governor Viktor Yushchenko.

The discussions were wide ranging, from preparations for the meeting later this month of the U.S.-Ukraine binational commission -- known as the Kuchma-Gore Commission after co-chairmen Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma and U.S. Vice President Al Gore -- to talks on borrowing programs with both the bank and the fund.

While all are important, Ukraine's negotiations with the IMF are central to Kyiv's hopes to begin putting its economy onto a track toward stability and growth.

Under discussion is a three-year loan of around $2.2 billion known as an EFF (for Extended Fund Facility). These are the most significant of IMF loans because to get them a country must agree to a very tough and detailed program of economic stabilization and reform. They are seen as a significant endorsement from IMF experts that a country is on the right path.

Ukraine went after an EFF loan nearly two years ago, but was rebuffed by the fund because its program of reforms was nowhere near advanced enough. Instead, the fund offered Kyiv a one-year stand-by loan to help it prepare for the longer-term and more demanding program.

However, before the year was up, the fund stopped disbursing the stand-by loan because Ukraine's reform program had gone completely off track, according to fund sources.

Ever since, Ukraine has been working with fund officials, developing a 92-point program of reforms that would qualify for an EFF loan. Tyhypko told reporters in Washington Thursday that by the end of this month, Ukraine will have fulfilled all but two or three of 33 of the points which the IMF insists must be implemented before the loan is even considered by its board.

Ukraine has implemented many of these points -- particularly those dealing with reform of the tax system for small business and farmers -- through presidential decrees. Those decrees are being submitted to the parliament, which has 30 days to accept or reject the measures, says Tyhypko. If the Rada accepts or doesn't act on any of the measures, they will become law. Only if there is a vote of rejection will the decrees be stopped from becoming law.

But Tyhypko says he can't imagine any being rejected because they were all worked out jointly with parliamentarians. One key measure -- the updated 1998 budget with a reduced deficit -- must be acted upon by the parliament. But Tyhypko says he's confident it will be quickly approved since the newly elected speaker of the parliament has said that with a few exceptions he supports the new budget.

IMF officials are not talking publicly about the discussions with Ukraine, but privately point out that a fund mission of experts is planning to visit Kyiv at the end of this month to assist in implementation of the agreed policy measures and to resolve some "technical issues."

Tyhypko says he hopes the Ukrainian loan will go to the IMF board by August at the latest, but sources at the fund say it is too early to make any predictions.