Economic studies
Ukraine

Ukraine

Population 41.5 million
GDP per capita 3,741 US$
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Synthesis

major macro economic indicators

  2019 2020 2021 (e) 2022 (f)
GDP growth (%) 3.2 -4.0 3.7 3.5
Inflation (yearly average, %) 7.9 2.7 9.3 6.0
Budget balance (% GDP) -2.2 -5.4 -4.9 -3.1
Current account balance (% GDP) -2.7 3.4 -0.7 -2.0
Public debt (% GDP) 50.2 60.9 58.2 56.3

(e): Estimate (f): Forecast

STRENGTHS

  • Strategic position in Europe
  • Association and Free Trade Agreement with the European Union (2016), enabling a reorientation of foreign trade
  • Significant potential in agriculture, with 55% of arable land (wheat, maize, barley, rapeseed, sunflower, beet, soybeans), and in metallurgy (iron)
  • Skilled and low-cost labour force
  • Low private debt levels
  • International financial and political support, although conditional on reforms

WEAKNESSES

  • Conflict with Russia and Russian-speaking populations in the Donbass region, affecting territorial integrity and preventing EU entry
  • Business environment marred by corruption (notably in the justice system), oligarchy and monopolies, weak property rights, a lack of competition and inefficient public services
  • Low economic diversification, sensitivity to weather and commodity prices
  • Declining demographics, regional inequalities featuring poverty and the informal sector
  • Credit constrained by doubtful loans and high real interest rates
  • Managed float of the hryvnia, continued restrictions on capital movements

RISK ASSESSMENT

Slow recovery

In 2021, the economic recovery was supported by a surge in household consumption and investments, however, a large part of growth was thanks to a favourable base effect and the pre-pandemic level was not reached. Moreover, Ukraine benefited from a strong rise in prices for its major export products, including cereals and iron. Higher volumes of exports, thanks to strong harvests, should still contribute to the first months of 2022. Household consumption (74% of GDP) will remain a growth driver, with inflation slowing down because of higher base effects and the price stabilisation of the highest inflationary components. Rising food and energy prices made inflation accelerate to 11% in September 2021, which triggered several interest rate hikes from the National Bank of Ukraine (reaching 8.5% as of November 2021).

 
The COVID-19 pandemic still poses a risk to the recovery process. The number of cases and hospitalisations have increased amid the slow vaccination process in autumn 2021. Indeed, Ukraine has among the lowest vaccination rates in Europe, with only 17.2% of the population fully vaccinated at the end of October 2021 and a high vaccine hesitancy. At the same time, companies are aware that it could limit the recovery process. According to the survey published in September 2021 by the American Chamber of Commerce and Citi Ukraine, 61% of surveyed companies indicated the possibility of a new lockdown as their biggest concern. On the other hand, 93% of surveyed companies advocated that eradicating corruption and implementing real judicial reforms are crucial steps the government should take to improve the business climate and attract foreign investment. Indeed, the weak process in implementing reforms affects the investment climate in the country, impacting the economy as a consequence.

 

Improving public finances under IMF supervision

Expatriates’ remittances (10% of GDP, mostly from Poland, Hungary and the Czech Rep.) remain important, not only as a support for household consumption, but also as a contribution to external accounts. Indeed, the current account balance turned exceptionally positive (3.4%) in 2020 thanks, in particular, to the resilient inflow of remittances, while it would have fell beyond -6% without such a contribution.

 
The budget deficit has been narrowing since the pandemic year 2020 caused it to expand, and should gradually return to the pre-pandemic level, but probably only after 2022. Concomitantly, Ukraine’s access to external financing remains important for public finances, especially short-term budget needs, including external debt repayments. Ukraine is due to receive USD 2.7 billion (10% of foreign currency reserves) as part of a Special Drawing Rights (SDR) allocation by the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The first tranche (USD 1.9 billion) was received in August 2021. In October 2021, it was announced that Ukraine would receive a USD 700 million disbursement and secure an extension to its USD 5 billion loan program through to June 2022. Previously, loan disbursals stalled over concerns about reforms and the independence of the central bank. Maintaining cooperation with the IMF is crucial for Ukraine’s financial stability, especially considering the country’s high external financing needs. Indeed, the external debt constitutes 54% of total State debt, mostly denominated in USD.

 

Government focused on anti-corruption reform

In 2019, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, an actor and TV producer, won the presidential election with over 73% of the vote, after entering politics four months earlier. A few months later, his Servant of the People Party obtained the absolute majority (251 seats out of 450) in the legislative elections. However, Servant of the People has seen its support collapse in last two years. The latest polls show a drop in support, from the 43% of votes that it obtained at the time of election to 14% in October 2021.The next presidential and parliamentary elections are scheduled for 2024.

 
The government intends to demonstrate a progress in rebuilding anti-corruption infrastructure to improve the investment climate and secure the IMF financing. In its 2020 Corruption Perception Index, Transparency International ranked Ukraine 117 out of 180 countries globally, giving it 33 out of a maximum of 100 points, where zero indicates that "corruption effectively replaces the government". In October 2021, the parliament passed a new law strengthening the independence of the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine.

 
Relations between Russia and Ukraine remain tough. In November 2021, reports and satellite imagery of Russian troops' movements towards the border caused renewed concerns about Russia's intentions following a similar build-up of troops in April. Moreover, if the Nord Steam 2 starts operating, Ukraine could lose a proportion of its gas transit revenues from Russia.

 

Last updated: February 2022

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