NewsUkraine's financial edge: Race against time to avoid insolvency

Ukraine's financial edge: Race against time to avoid insolvency

Ukraine has a month to avoid bankruptcy, writes the latest issue of the British weekly "The Economist"
Ukraine has a month to avoid bankruptcy, writes the latest issue of the British weekly "The Economist"
Images source: © PAP | Viktor Kovalchuk
Katarzyna Kalus

2 July 2024 17:03

Ukraine has a month to avoid bankruptcy, writes the latest issue of the British weekly "The Economist". For the past two years, creditors have agreed to a suspension of its debt repayments, but the moratorium from private foreign bondholders expires on 1 August.

"The Economist" notes that this suspension—from both governments and private lenders—is worth 15% of Ukraine's GDP annually, and if payments were necessary, they would be the second-largest state expenditure after defence.

The International Monetary Fund wants Ukrainian Finance Minister Serhiy Marchenko to negotiate partial debt forgiveness, but reaching an agreement in such a short time seems unlikely. In June, he proposed a deal to creditors that would reduce the present value of debts by 60%, but they responded that they consider 22% to be more reasonable, explains the weekly.

The weekly assesses that if Ukraine fails to meet its obligations, it will indicate a troubling lack of faith by private investors in the West's commitment, and in the longer term, this could spell disaster for the country's reconstruction.

Ukraine desperately needs fiscal space. By the end of the year, its debt-to-GDP ratio will approach 94%—very high for a country with such a turbulent financial history and size. The amounts supplied by allies are impressive but come in the form of artillery, tanks, and earmarked funds, not cash. Only £6.3 billion from the latest American package will go directly to the Ukrainian government, which is equivalent to just over a quarter of Ukraine's annual spending on social benefits, and even that is in the form of a loan. The EU plans to offer a little more, but still only £30 billion over three years, reports "The Economist".

It adds that although the debt relief suggested by Ukraine is modest—£10 billion from 2024 to 2027—it has no free funds to lay out if it is not granted. According to the IMF, under such a drastic restructuring deal as the one proposed by Ukraine and rejected by bondholders, the country would barely be able to make ends meet.

"The Economist" explains that in the absence of an agreement, Ukraine has two options. One is to negotiate an extension of the debt servicing freeze, as already done with non-private creditors who will forego payments until 2027. The second is insolvency. It may sound drastic, but in reality, the difference between these scenarios is minimal. Either way, Ukrainian payments will not be resumed, reads the weekly.

Rebuilding Ukraine. Investors sceptical

As it notes, the restraint of private sector investors does not reflect just the financial prospects of Ukraine. In normal restructuring, creditors bet on the country's economic outlook. Lending to a country at war also involves a second risk: whether it will win.

Bondholders are also sceptical about the plans for long-term reconstruction of Ukraine in the event of victory. Although allies and the IMF argued that restructuring would allow Ukraine to re-enter financial markets as soon as the war ends and its allies forgive debts, investors are not convinced that such a day will ever come to pass. They rather believe that restructuring would be the first of many attempts by Ukraine's allies to shift the financial burden of the war and the costs of reconstruction from governments to the private sector, writes the weekly.

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