I.M.F. Approves Critical Loan for Ukraine

I.M.F. Approves Critical Loan for Ukraine

I.M.F. Approves Critical Loan for Ukraine

I.M.F. Approves Critical Loan for Ukraine

MOSCOW — President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine has won an important vote of confidence in his promised anti-corruption efforts as the International Monetary Fund has approved a multibillion-dollar lending program for the country.

The fund’s executive board late Tuesday authorized a line of credit of about $5 billion over 18 months, and Ukraine officials on Wednesday welcomed the decision as a hard-fought victory.

The money, desperately needed for Ukraine’s swooning economy and to pay for the costs of containing the coronavirus, is the largest foreign aid program approved so far under the tenure of Mr. Zelensky, a former comedian elected president last year.

Last year, the Trump administration delayed $400 million in congressionally approved military assistance to Ukraine, with the president’s allies asserting that Mr. Zelensky had not followed through on his anti-corruption platform.

Democrats in Congress said the administration, in fact, had delayed the aid to force the Ukrainian government into a public announcement of an investigation into the family of Joseph R. Biden Jr., now the presumptive Democratic Party nominee for U.S. president. Mr. Trump was impeached in the House over this issue, but acquitted in the Senate.

The I.M.F. negotiations became a test of Mr. Zelensky’s commitment to rooting out government corruption, which has for years stunted Ukraine’s economic development.

His early promise as an anti-corruption star dimmed this year after former officials went public with criticism of foot-dragging on key overhauls needed to tamp down on insider dealing.

Still, the Ukrainian government cleared an important hurdle last month when Parliament passed a bill preventing insiders from siphoning off international aid money through bank bailouts. The I.M.F. had conditioned the loan on passage of the bill.

The law was seen as preventing a former business partner of Mr. Zelensky’s, Ihor Kolomoisky, an oil, banking and media tycoon whose television station had aired the future president’s comedy shows, from gaining access to the I.M.F. bailout money.

Still, the I.M.F.’s statement on approval of the new lending program came with reservations.

The fund said that, broadly, “more reform efforts are needed to ensure robust and inclusive growth.” The first portion of the loan, $2.1 billion, will be disbursed immediately, with the remainder released only after progress reviews.

  • Updated June 5, 2020

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One risk, said Kristalina Georgieva, the fund’s managing director, is that Ukraine’s scramble to meet the medical and economic crisis of the coronavirus has “refocused priorities away from deep structural reforms.”

Though the fund approved the lending, she noted that “uncertainty about the direction of economic policies remains substantial.”

Notably, the fund mentioned in its statement an issue touching on the relationship between Mr. Zelensky and Mr. Kolomoisky, the businessman.

A Ukrainian state-owned bank has sued Mr. Kolomoisky to recover money that banking regulators say he embezzled and laundered abroad. The I.M.F. has encouraged Mr. Zelensky’s administration to press ahead with that effort, saying in its statement that “recovering costs” in banking disputes should be a focus for the Ukrainian government.

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