Category Archives: Ukrainian economy

4/8/15: IMF Downgrades Ukraine Growth Outlook

IMF just published its Article IV consultation paper on Ukraine. Here are some key points (I am staying out of extensive commenting on these, but emphasis is added in the quotes).

Before we start, it is important to highlight that IMF notes significant breadth and depth of reforms already undertaken by the Ukrainian authorities, albeit warns about potential slippage in future reforms. Given the overall environment (geopolitical and domestic) in which these reforms are taking place, Ukrainian Government deserves a positive assessment of their work in a number of important areas.

"The 2015 baseline growth projection has been marked down to -9 percent (relative to -5.5 percent at the EFF approval), driven by a delayed pick up in industrial production, construction, and retail trade, and expectations of a weaker agricultural season." Note: this is a massive contraction compared to Programme projections.

"Domestic demand will be somewhat more constrained than anticipated earlier by tighter credit conditions and larger-than-expected decline in real incomes amid higher inflation."

"Growth is expected to start recovering in the second half of the year, supported by growing consumer and investor confidence, gradual rehabilitation of the banking system, and restoration of broken supply chains in metals, mining, and energy production. Later on, manufacturing should also start benefitting from the restored competitiveness of Ukraine’s exports. However, the recovery is expected to take hold only gradually through 2016. Medium-term growth projections remain unchanged." Note: you can see projections for following years in the table at the end of this post.

"The 2015 inflation has been revised upwards to 46 percent at end-2015, compared to
27 percent at program approval, driven by the faster-than-expected pass-through effects of the large exchange rate overshooting in March."

Note: again, this is a massive revision on programme-assumed inflation. Take together with the GDP revision above, it is hard to see how the IMF can continue arguing sustainability case for the programme at this stage, without hoping for massive recovery.

"Inflation is projected to recede quickly in 2016 to around 12 percent as the one-off effects subside and economic stabilization takes hold. Monthly core inflation rates are already well below 1 percent and expected to remain in such territory, as the negative output gap, subdued demand, and the stabilization of the exchange rate will put downward pressure on inflation."

Here's an interesting bit: Inflation 'one off' drivers include IMF-required adjustment in energy prices:

"The rapid pass-through of the large exchange rate depreciation in February and increases in regulated energy prices pushed inflation to 61 percent y-o-y in April. As the hryvnia recovered and stabilized in April–June, prices of some imported goods declined while increases in prices of non-tradables remained moderate. As a result, inflation in June moderated to 0.4 percent m-o-m, or 57½ percent y-o-y. The high y-o-y number masks the sharp disinflation that has already occurred: the seasonally adjusted annualized inflation in May–June 2015 fell to 13 percent."

But energy prices are yet to be fully inflated to their targets, so more is to come: "Gas and heating prices increases. Gas prices for households were increased by 285 percent on average, effective April 1. Heating prices were also increased by 67 percent, effective May 8. Despite these increases, gas and heating prices remain among the lowest in the region. The program aims to reach 75 percent of cost recovery gas and heating prices based on international prices by April 2016 and 100 percent by April 2017."

Which, of course, means there will be much more pain for ordinary Ukrainians, comes winter.

"The overall balance of payments remains broadly unchanged. The current account deficit is expected to widen to 1.7 percent of GDP in 2015, compared to 1.4 percent of GDP at program approval. Both exports and imports are projected to decline considerably this year, driven by (i) falling export prices and larger-than-expected loss of export capacity stemming from the conflict; and (ii) the weaker economy and steeper fall of energy consumption."

"Risks to the outlook remain exceptionally high. Risks to economic growth are predominantly on the downside reflecting (i) uncertainty about the duration and depth of the conflict in Eastern Ukraine; (ii) prolongation of the discussions on the debt operation (which could disrupt capital flows); and (iii) slippages in policy implementation. In addition, confidence could fail to revive due to these factors, or due to a more protracted bank resolution process. Higher-than-expected inflation—due to inflation expectations becoming more entrenched—could reduce domestic demand further. On the upside, an early resolution of the conflict could boost confidence and growth faster than projected."

"…Regarding program implementation, policy reversals, including regarding the flexible exchange rate policy and fiscal/energy price adjustment could lead to continuing balance of payments problems and raise repayment risks."

"Against significant headwinds, the authorities showed again their determination to stay the course of the program. ...However, although domestic support for a new Ukraine is strong, pressures from populist forces and vested interests are growing. Moreover, the local elections in the fall pose a risk that the reform momentum could fade."

Bad news on debt levels are:

Note: Public debt levels assume meeting IMF target for restructuring current debt. There is another dreamy feature to both graphs - as with all IMF programmes, debt peaks out in year one. Given past histories, however, the forecasts don;t quite turn to reality.

Another set of bad news: Non-performing Loans (NPLs) as % of total assets was bad in 2013 and getting massively worse now:

And a summary of macro performance indicators and projections:

13/7/15: IMF’s Russian Economy Forecasts 2015-2016

IMF WEO update covered, briefly, changes to the Fund outlook for the Russian economy. Here's a summary:

Overall, the only point here is the delayed upgrade to Russian forecast for 2015-2016. Lower rate of contraction forecast for 2015 (from -3.833% in April WEO to -3.4% this time around) and return to (basically zero) growth in 2016 (+0.2% forecast in july compared to -1.096% in April).

In its briefing on the WEO update, IMF said (emphasis mine): "The other country where the numbers are very bad is in Russia. We now forecast Russia’s growth to be negative at -3.4 percent. It’s a bit better than the forecast in April. That comes from a small improvement in commodity prices and a small increase in confidence, but that’s clearly a very large negative number that will lead to a very tough year in Russia."

Additional risk factor, noted by the IMF, is rates reversion in the U.S. and closing on the rate reversion cycle re-start in the euro area: "...this is going to be the year in which the interest rate in the U.S. is going to start increasing. The date by which the interest rate is expected to increase in Europe will also get closer, and so you are going to see tighter financial conditions, which means that capital will tend to go back to where the rates are attractive. So far, it hasn’t been happening on a very large scale. I think we can expect some capital outflows from a number of these countries, and these always create some problems but they can handle, but that is a challenge they are going to have to face."

Just how bad the effect of rates reversion will be is hard to tell. Overall, however, Russian economy has suffered quite significantly from both, the adverse changes in the global credit flows (away from emerging markets in general) and idiosyncratic drivers pushing credit supply lower. Here are two charts covering the latest BIS data we have:

Overall credit:

Credit to non-financial private sector:

And sources of funding:
Source for charts above:

17/5/15: Ukraine’s GDP down 17.6% in 1Q

Some pretty bad numbers out of Ukraine this week. 

Remember that 1Q 2015 Russian GDP shrunk 1.9% y/y in real terms and the forecasts for 2015 full year decline range between 3% (official forecast) to north of 7% (some Western banks analysts), with the consensus at around 3.8-4.0%.

Now, Ukraine's economy is in the IMF programme and the Fund latest forecast for 2015 full year growth was -5.548%. That is the base on which the so-called debt sustainability analysis is based. Even the World Bank - which forecast -7.5% real GDP decline for 2015 - was contrarian to the IMF optimism.

However, this week official data shows real GDP decline of 17.6% in 1Q 2015 y/y and down 6.5% on 4Q 2014. Exports to the EU are down 1/3rd, exports to Russia down 61% and industrial output is down more than 20%. With inflation at around 60% y/y in April, retail sales are down 31% at the end of 1Q 2015 y/y. 

Good news is - it is likely that 2H 2015 will see some improvement in Ukrainian growth dynamics, just as the same is likely in Russia. But I fear that we are going to see a much sharper contraction for the full year overall, compared to the IMF forecasts. If that turns out to be the case, Ukraine can require restructuring of its IMF 'assistance' package, although much of that risk also hinges on the progress on haircuts negotiations with the private sector creditors. These negotiations have not been progressing too well, so far, but there may be a turnaround in the works. 

In short, Ukraine's 'debt sustainability' charade the IMF has put up is now firmly in crosshairs of two risks - the haircut slippage and economy collapse. And both risks are rising, not falling so far…

2/5/15: IMF to Ukraine: Pain, and More Pain, and Maybe Some Gain

A very interesting IMF working paper on sustainability and effectiveness of fiscal policy in Ukraine that cuts rather dramatically across the official IMF policy blather.

Fiscal Multipliers in Ukraine, by Pritha Mitra and Tigran Poghosyan, IMF Working Paper, March 2015, WP/15/71 looks at the role of fiscal policy (spending and investment) in the Ukrainian economy.

As authors assert, "since the 2008-09 global crisis, which hit Ukraine particularly hard, the government relied on fiscal stimulus to support recovery. In reality, it was the main lever for macroeconomic management… Today, even after the recent float of the Ukrainian hryvnia, fiscal policy remains key to economic stabilization." In particular, "Over the past five years, the government relied on real public wage and pension hikes to stimulate economic activity, sometimes at the expense of public infrastructure spending. Many argue that this choice of fiscal instruments undermined private sector growth and contributed to the economy falling back into recession in mid-2012."

Since the IMF bailout, however, fiscal adjustment is now aiming for a reversal of long term imbalances on spending and revenue sides. In simple terms, fiscal adjustment now became a critical basis for addressing the economic and financial crisis. As the result, the IMF study looked at the effectiveness of various fiscal policy instruments.

The reason for the need for rebalancing fiscal policy in Ukraine is that current environment is characterised by "…the severe crisis, its toll on tax revenues, and financing constraints, necessitate fiscal consolidation. But the challenge is to minimize its negative impact on growth."

In other words, the key questions are: "Will tax hikes or spending cuts harm growth more? Does capital or current spending have a stronger impact on economic activity?"

Quantitatively, the paper attempts to estimate "…the fiscal multiplier – the change in output, relative to baseline, following an exogenous change in the fiscal deficit that stems from a change in revenue or spending policies."

The findings are: "Applying a structural vector auto regression, the empirical results show that Ukraine’s near term fiscal multipliers are well below one. Specifically, the impact revenue and spending multipliers are -0.3 and 0.4, respectively. This suggests that if a combination of revenue and spending consolidation measures were pursued, the near-term marginal impact on growth would be modest", albeit negative for raising revenue and cutting spending.

"Over the medium-term, the revenue multiplier becomes insignificant, rendering it impossible to draw any conclusions on its strength. The spending multiplier strengthens to 1.4, with about the same impact from capital and current spending. However, the impact of the capital multiplier lasts longer. Against this backdrop, the adverse impact of fiscal consolidation on medium-term growth could be minimized by cutting current spending while raising that on capital."

The risks are unbalanced to the downside, however, so the IMF study concludes that "Given the severe challenges facing the Ukrainian economy, it is important that policymakers apply these results in conjunction with broader considerations – including public debt sustainability, investor confidence, credibility of government policies, public spending efficiency. These considerations combined with the large size of current spending in the budget, may necessitate larger near- and long-term current spending cuts than what multiplier estimates suggest."

In simple terms, this means that, per IMF research (note, this is not a policy directive), Ukrainian economy will need to sustain a heavy duty adjustment on the side of cutting public spending on current expenditure programmes (wages, pensions, purchasing of services, provision of services, social welfare, health, etc) and, possibly, provide small, only partially offsetting, increase in capital spending. This would have to run alongside other measures that will raise costs of basic services and utilities for all involved.

The problem, therefore, is a striking one: to deliver debt sustainability, current expenditure and price supports will have to be cut, causing massive amounts of pain for ordinary citizens. Meanwhile, infrastructure spending will have to rise (but much less than the cuts in current expenditure), which will, given Ukrainian corruption, line the pockets of the oligarchs, while providing income and jobs to a smaller subset of working population. Otherwise, the economy will tank sharply. Take your pick, the IMF research suggests: public unrest because of cut-backs to basic expenditures, or an even deeper contraction in the economy. A hard choice to make.

In the end, "More broadly, fiscal multipliers are one of many tools policymakers should use to guide their decisions. Given the severe challenges facing the Ukrainian economy – including public debt sustainability, low investor confidence, and subsequent limited availability of financing – it may be necessary for policymakers to undertake stark consolidation efforts across both revenues and expenditures, despite the adverse consequences for growth."