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IMF approves $1B loan to Ukraine after yearlong delay

Associated Press Associated Press 15/09/2016 By MARIA DANILOVA

WASHINGTON — The International Monetary Fund has approved a $1 billion loan disbursement for Ukraine, after a yearlong delay amid concerns about corruption and the slow pace of reforms in the war-scarred ex-Soviet nation.

The money is part of a $17.5 billion IMF loan program that is meant to boost the Ukrainian economy, which is slowly emerging from a recession, and strengthen the local currency. The economy has suffered from a military conflict with Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine that has claimed more than 9,500 lives, sent some 2 million people fleeing their homes and destroyed vital infrastructure.

The disbursement fell short of $1.7 billion that was promised earlier. Announcing the decision Wednesday evening, IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde said that a firm commitment to fiscal, banking and structural reforms is necessary.

"Determined policy implementation ... remains critical to achieve program objectives, given the significant challenges ahead," Lagarde said in a statement. "A sustainable recovery requires completing the structural transformation of the economy, where much remains to be done, including combating corruption and improving governance."

In Kiev, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko hailed the decision as evidence that "Ukraine is undergoing deep and positive changes and the country is moving in the right direction."

The loan program was approved in 2015, and Wednesday's decision brings the total received by Ukraine to $7.6 billion. Ukraine's Finance Ministry said in a statement that it expects the next disbursement to total $1.3 billion, but an IMF spokesman would not comment on that figure.

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