UPDATE 1-Ukrainian parliament approves 2021 budget to obtain IMF loans

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(Addition of comments from the Minister of Finance, details)

KYIV, Dec.15 (Reuters) – Ukraine’s parliament on Tuesday approved the 2021 budget with a deficit of 5.5% of gross domestic product, the finance minister said, adding that the vote could pave the way for talks with the government. International Monetary Fund for new loans.

“The budget is a marker showing that we can meet our obligations,” Finance Minister Serhiy Marchenko told reporters after the vote.

The IMF approved a $ 5 billion stand-by loan program in June and disbursed $ 2.1 billion to help Ukraine tackle a sharp economic slowdown amid the coronavirus pandemic.

But the disbursement of two additional tranches worth a total of $ 1.4 billion was hampered by concerns over Ukraine’s reform momentum and central bank independence.

On Tuesday, lawmakers also voted to restore the powers of the anti-corruption agency NAZK, another step to boost the government’s chances of securing more IMF loans.

Marchenko said budget revenues had been calculated on “realistic forecasts” and agreed with IMF experts.

The government expects the economy to grow 4.6% in 2021 after falling around 5% in 2020 due to lockdown restrictions imposed to combat the novel coronavirus pandemic.

“The budget is realistic and balanced, it guarantees that all government obligations will be met,” Marchenko said. (Reporting by Natalia Zinets; Editing by Matthias Williams and Bernadette Baum)

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