Ukraine needs donor conference to avoid default: prime minister

11th December 2014, Comments 0 comments

Ukraine's Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk said Thursday the country urgently needed billions in additional aid to avoid the economy collapsing into default.

Yatsenyuk said an international donor conference was urgently needed to get the extra money -- which he said could amount to $15 billion on top of the billions already promised in grants and loans from the West.

"In order to survive in this difficult period and avoid default, we need an international donor conference and the help of our Western partners," he told parliament.

Lawmakers voted to approve the government's general programme on Thursday, which includes a number of severe austerity cuts imposed by international lenders.

The lenders want deep cuts to welfare services and a hike in energy prices to help balance the books.

Brussels has repeatedly postponed plans for a donors' meeting to help Ukraine's crippled economy.

During a visit to the country late last month, EU neighbourhood commissioner Johannes Hahn said there would be no meeting until there were "sound proposals about a roadmap for reforms and first tangible results".

The International Monetary Fund has been in the country since Tuesday on a nine-day visit to determine how much extra aid the war-wrecked and energy-starved nation will need to make it through the winter.

The Fund helped piece together a $27-billion (22-billion-euro) global rescue package -- promising to contribute $17 billion of that sum over two years -- in the weeks that followed the February ouster in Kiev of a Russian-backed president.

The IMF has warned Ukraine could need as much as $19 billion more if the war in its eastern region drags on to the end of 2015.

The visit is seen as a vote of confidence in the reformist cabinet that President Petro Poroshenko put together in late November after weeks of political infighting that left Ukraine's Western supporters frustrated and dismayed.

The finance ministry is now headed by Natalie Jaresko -- a US citizen who once worked in the State Department and more recently held a senior post in a private equity firm in Kiev.

The Lithuanian investment banker Aivaras Abromavicius will serve alongside her as economy minister. Both were handed Ukrainian passports by Poroshenko just hours ahead of their confirmation by parliament.

© 2014 AFP

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