April 8, 2020
BY AMBASSADOR KURT VOLKER
Ukraine’s Parliament will face a moment of truth when it meets on April 10. As the novel coronavirus increasingly impacts the country, the Rada must finally pass the banking legislation necessary to free up $8 billion in IMF funding, and a further $1.5 billion from other sources.
It is easy to forget that 2019 was a year of euphoria in Ukraine. Building on solid reforms implemented since the 2014 Revolution of Dignity, in 2019 Ukraine dramatically improved its finances and borrowing costs, advanced stalled reforms, repositioned itself in the eyes of foreign investors, and laid the foundations for rapid growth. Ukraine was outpacing global markets for the first time since achieving independence in 1991. With a GDP per capita among the lowest in Europe — but also with a talented workforce and vast natural resources — Ukraine has the greatest upward economic potential on the continent. The election of Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who promised far-reaching reform and a renewed push for peace, buoyed both international markets and the national mood.
By contrast, 2020 has become a year of dire challenge. The coronavirus has hit Ukraine. As in the United States, a shortage of testing kits means the virus is probably more widespread than official numbers can confirm. Available healthcare services may become over-stretched. Government financial resources will be insufficient.