This is a curated list of the biggest economic news in Ukraine for the past week.
The coronavirus has taken a firm grip on Ukraine. Today, 546 people died from the disease, setting a new record in daily deaths. It is the second time this week for Ukraine to beat their previous record of daily recorded deaths. In the past 24 hours, 22,415 new cases of the coronavirus was registered in Ukraine. That is also a new record, beating even the days of spring this year.
In other words, it is now official: Ukraine has never been worse hit by COVID-19 than now. Still, though, a lockdown is not in sight, and the vaccination process is nowhere near completed. All of this together argues, that Autumn is going to be a very rough time for Ukraine.
Busy week in politics
Surprisingly, the news this week has not been dominated by coronavirus. This week, and the last couple of days in particular, has been dominated by the Ukrainian progress towards obtaining the next tranche of the IMF loan. The Verkhovna Rada, the Ukrainian Parliament, approved a law that would strengthen the National Anti-Corruption Bureau, NABU.
Most notably, the law changes the process of appointing the head the agency. Currently, it is the president that elects the director of NABU, but should the bill be passed, that power is moved to a committee of six members where three of them are elected by the Cabinet of Ministers and the other three will be chosen from international organizations.
NABU would also become a central executive body with a special status. The Cabinet of Ministers will be overseeing the work of the agency, but they will not have the power to overturn the actions of NABU. It is designed to make NABU less vulnerable against political influence.
This law is a requirement from the IMF. As was another law that would strengthen the independence of the National Bank of Ukraine, NBU, which has been the main object of discussion between Ukraine and the International Monetary Fund, IMF, since their negotiations hit rock bottom last Summer.
The law was approved by the parliament yesterday amid rumours that president Volodymyr Zelenskyy wants to fire the current governor of NBU.
Gas, gas, gas
Not only is COVID-19 at an all time high in Ukraine, but heating season is also upon us. The current surge in gas-prices have made people worry, that they will have to go through winter without enough gas to warm their houses. Secondly, there is a large fear among ordinary Ukrainians, that the bills will be too high for them to pay. Already, utility bills make up a large portion of the household budgets in Ukraine, with this winter looking to be worse.
“We face a large-scale task that, despite the gas crisis or even the gas war in Ukraine and Europe, Ukrainian consumers, at least households, budget organizations, and heating companies, are provided with gas,” said Yurij Vitrenko, the head of Naftogaz.
The parliament is also considering putting gas under price control. This idea is not exactly new, but have been opposed by the Western partners for a long time. Most notably the IMF, who has been urging Ukraine to drop that idea for a long time.
“There is – and there will be – a substantial part of the Ukrainian population who cannot cover the cost of gas, heat, hot water, and electricity. The most efficient way to support those households is to identify them and provide them with financial support through the budget so that they can pay their utility bills. This instrument for support exists in the form of the Household Utility Subsidy program. We support this program,” said IMF Resident Representative in Ukraine, Goesta Ljungman, back in March.
No meeting with Putin in sight
The Russian President Vladimir Putin and the Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky met back in 2019 but haven’t been able to set a new date for a new meeting so far. And according to the Kremlin, it is unlikely that a meeting will take place.
“No, it would be out of the question (to discuss Crimea) if the issue is raised. Discussing Crimea is clearly not possible. Therefore, this wording actually calls into question the hypothetical possibility of such a meeting,” said Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov recently, according to Tass. At the same time, also Deputy Chairman of the Security Council in Russia, Dmitry Medvedev, recently made it clear that they have no reason to meet with Ukraine.
Boost to Chernobyl
The State Property Fund of Ukraine, an agency tasked with the privatization of state assets, have found a creative way to boost economy in and around the Chernobyl zone. The property fund is now going to rent out 36 buildings in the area for as little as 11 dollars a month, hoping to raise economic activity in the area.
The Chernobyl zone is degrading, and many buildings are on the brick of collapse, threatening the possibility of future generations visiting the area. The Ukrainian government is, therefore, pushing for help with restoration, and one of the main goals is to get Chernobyl accepted to be put on the UNESCO world heritage list.
“We believe that putting Chernobyl on the UNESCO heritage list is a first and important step towards having this great place as a unique destination of interest for the whole of mankind,” said Ukrainian Culture Minister Oleksandr Tkachenko recently.