The IMF is busy lending to a European country in deep difficulties – and this time it is not Greece. It looks as if current IMF lending has just got more political, with the IMF acting as some banking arm of European Union expansionism and centralisation. It is lending to Ukraine.
The good news is that this lending, unlike the loans to Greece , is to a country with its own currency. It can devalue, and just has undergone a massive devaluation. The Hryvania has fallen from 23 to the £1 in November last, to 32 to £1 now.
The bad news is that the loans are to country which just like Greece has a government which wishes to write off or renegotiate its past debts. Lending to countries which say themselves they already have too much debt and need to cut them, if necessary without the agreement of creditors, is a very risky and arguably unhelpful thing to do.
On top of that bad news, just as Greece has experienced economic collapse with large falls in output thanks to the Euro scheme, so Ukraine has suffered a sharp fall in output owing to a civil war and to the loss of some of the industrial parts of the country’s economy.
In Ukraine national income and output fell 6.9% last year, and the IMF thinks it will fall another 5.5% this year. The Finance Minister is seeking $15 billion of debt relief, saying she intends to carry through a mixture of offering a lower interest rate on past debts, extending the date before the money is repaid, and simply cancelling some of the value of the debt owing.
Ukrainian debt currently trades at around 40 cents for each dollar owed. The country has very high inflation, weak banks, and a large shopping list for weapons.
All this bodes ill for the success of the debt programme. It also should raise questions in people’s minds about the kind of Europe which the EU is creating. The slaughter has been extreme, the country has failed to keep its people friendly to Russia onside, and it has been outwitted by Russia herself with the annexation of Crimea. I of course condemn any Russian military interference in Ukraine, and condemn the deaths of UKrainian citizens by the rebel forces. I also dislike some of the actions of the present Ukrainian government, which has not found a way to stabilise its country and protect its own citizens, and condemn violence by the Ukrainian state against its own people. The EU has had no answer to this. The Ukrainians that look to the EU for their future should ask why they are now so much worse off, and why their lives have been endangered by recent events.