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Ukraine to Confirm Pension Reform for IMF Tranche

Ukraine’s Verkhovna Rada has approved an unpopular pension reform bill set as a key requirement to unlock a US$15.6 billion aid package from the International Monetary Fund to the Ukrainian economy.

The bill, approved early Friday, is designed to overhaul Ukraine’s Soviet-era pension system as the government seeks to slash spending in the wake of the Global Financial Crisis.

Ukraine’s parliament approved a government bill on pension reform at first reading on June 16.

The parliament discussed amendments to the document all night (consideration of the bill lasted 8.5 hours) before passing the final text in the early hours of Friday. It is expected to be signed into law soon by President Viktor Yanukovych.

The bill, which will enter into force on September 1, would gradually raise the retirement age for women from 55 to 60 years and increase by 10 years the period when workers make salary contributions to their retirement funds. The retirement age of male civil servants men was raised to 63 years.

The adopted bill stipulates the maximum pension cannot exceed 10 times the living wage, which is currently around US$95 a week. Previously, the maximum amount was 12 time.

The bill also decreases from 90 percent to 80 percent the wage for calculating pensions for civil servants. The maximum pension is limited to 10 minimum incomes (some US$1,000 at present).

The Ukrainian government put forward a draft pension reform bill parliament last year in a bid to overcome the Pension Fund’s growing annual deficit and to meet IMF requirements. But its passage has been postponed several times.

As a result the IMF froze funding this year because of the failure to pass the bill, and the government hopes the aid will resume once the law is passed. The bill now awaits presidential approval to become law.

“If the parliament will vote for the pension reform, in early August we can get the decision of the IMF Board of Directors,” Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister for Social Policies Sergei Tigipko said to reporters.

Tigipko suggested that the two tranches of the IMF might be combined. “We might be able to obtain two tranches simultaneously – about US$3 billion, which will be added to the foreign exchange reserves of the National Bank.”

According to official data, Ukraine has the world’s largest share of spending on pensions – 18 percent of GDP in 2010. Moreover, one of the highest levels of pension contributions in Europe, representing 35 percent of gross salary. In addition, despite that in 2010 an amount equivalent to 7 percent of GDP was transferred from the budget to the pension fund.

Martin Raiser, World Bank Director for Ukraine, Belarus and Moldova assures that once the bill is be signed by the Ukrainian president to come into force, it will allow annual savings on pension costs amounting to about 1.5 percent of GDP starting 2012. And till 2015 Pension Fund deficit budget financing will disappear.

According to the survey, conducted by the Gorshenin Institute on June 11-13 2011, 52.3 percent of interviewed respondents living in Ukraine’s regional centers, cities, towns and villages, including Kiev and Sevastopol, agree that the pension reform is definitely necessary.

At the same time, only 6.7 percent of respondents are taking some actions to ensure their financial security upon retirement, while 68.3 percent of respondents, as it was in Soviet time, are “doing nothing and count on a state pension.”

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