Sunday, May 31, 2015

31/5/15: IMF slashes Ukraine Economy Outlook


IMF statement on Ukraine with some pretty ugly forecast revisions.

[Note, emphasis in italics is mine]

"Press Release No. 15/243, May 31, 2015

IMF Statement on Discussions with Ukraine on First Review under the Extended Fund Facility Arrangement

An International Monetary Fund (IMF) mission visited Kyiv during May 12-29 to hold discussions on the first review under the Extended Fund Facility Arrangement (EFF) in support of the authorities’ economic reform program (see Press Release No. 15/107).

At the conclusion of the visit, Mr. Nikolay Gueorguiev, mission chief for Ukraine, made the following statement today in Kyiv:
 ...
“The authorities’ commitment to the reform program remains strong. All performance criteria for end-March were met and all structural benchmarks due in the Spring are on course to be met, albeit some with a delay. This good program implementation has been achieved notwithstanding an exceptionally difficult environment, in part related to the unresolved conflict in the East, which took a heavier than expected toll on the economy in the first quarter of 2015.

Accordingly, the mission has revised down growth projections for 2015 to -9 percent and projects end-year inflation at 46 percent. Inflation was mostly driven by one-off pass-through effects of the large exchange rate depreciation in February as well as the needed energy price increases.

“In recent months, signs that economic stability is gradually taking hold are steadily emerging. The foreign exchange market has remained broadly stable. Gross international reserves, although still very low, have increased to US$9.6 billion at end-April. Banks’ deposits in domestic currency have been recovering. The budget outturn in the first months of 2015 was stronger than expected, partly due to temporary factors.

“The authorities recognize that decisive implementation of economic reforms is indispensable for entrenching financial stability and restoring robust and sustainable growth. They are committed to advancing fiscal consolidation and energy sector reforms, including further energy tariff adjustments to eliminate the large losses of Naftogaz, reduce energy consumption, and foster energy independence. They are also moving ahead with the rehabilitation of the banking system, and the improvement of the business environment to enhance the productive potential of the economy.

“The authorities are also determined to complete the ongoing debt operation in line with program objectives. This will ensure that public debt is sustainable with high probability and the program remains fully financed, which are requirements for the completion of the review. More broadly, continued financial support for Ukraine’s reform efforts from official and private creditors is vital for the success of the program.”

Let's hope IMF optimism wins over the reality, but just two and a half months ago, the IMF projected gross international reserves for 2015 at USD18.3 billion, and now they are celebrating reserves at USD9.6bn. IMF programme sustainability analysis was forecasting real GDP decline of 5.5% in 2015 - not 9% decline the Fund now projects. See: http://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/scr/2015/cr1569.pdf for more details.

One has to wonder, just how 'flexible' the Fund became in recent years when it comes to 'hard' numbers underpinning it's 'programme sustainability' arithmetic.
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