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31 August, 2019

Oleksiy Honcharuk named as Ukrainian prime minister

New premier vows to accelerate the pace of reform and continue anti-corruption fight

Ukraine`s president Volodymyr Zelensky, who secured an outright majority for his new Servant of the People party in a snap election in July, has moved to consolidate his position by choosing Oleksiy Honcharuk, a 35-year-old lawyer, to be the country’s next prime minister. Parliament approved Mr Honcharuk’s candidacy on Thursday. Introducing him, Mr Zelensky urged newly elected MPs to “get to work”. He said the time had come for reforms to “shift into fifth gear” and also to “end the war” in eastern Ukraine which began after Russia annexed Crimea in 2014. Mr Honcharuk said that “a new generation has [now] been ushered into power.” Citing poverty, a large national debt burden, dilapidated infrastructure, poor public services and still rampant corruption as Ukraine’s principal challenges, the new prime minister admitted that “things won’t be easy for this new government”. “We need to grow not at 3-5 per cent annual growth levels, but at 5-7 per cent,” Mr Honcharuk said, pointing to the need larger for increased inward investment. Set to become Ukraine’s youngest premier, Mr Honcharuk served as deputy head of Mr Zelensky’s presidential office after the 41-year old former comedian took office in May. Previously, he spent four years as head of the western-backed Better Regulation Delivery Office. A person close to Mr Zelensky told the Financial Times ahead of the vote that Mr Honcharuk was chosen from a list of more experienced candidates after showing himself to be a “team player” focused on achieving results.

In a Financial Times interview this summer, Mr Honcharuk said that the priorities for Mr Zelensky’s administration would be boosting economic growth and investment by speeding up privatisation, lifting a moratorium on the sale of Ukraine’s rich agricultural land, deeper deregulation and strengthening rule of law through reform of the courts. “We need in the next five years to turn Ukraine into the East European tiger economy,” he said. Asked about the fate of oligarch Igor Kolomoisky, who backed Mr Zelensky’s candidacy and is seeking to reverse in the courts an IMF-backed nationalisation of Privatbank, Mr Honcharuk said, “we understand this is a litmus test”. Appointments to his government, which were expected to be approved rapidly, include a mix of new faces from Mr Zelensky’s party and experienced officials who served under former president Petro Poroshenko. In a move likely to be welcomed by markets, Oksana Markarova, who has led crucial talks with the IMF on financing and reforms, is likely to remain as finance minister. Vadym Prystaiko, named as foreign minister, is expected to lead a fresh round of international talks aimed at ending the war in the east. The new parliament is also expected to strip lawmakers’ immunity from prosecution and adopt legislation allowing for the president to be impeached. These measures are part of a broader effort to end corruption and make public servants more accountable.

Financial Times

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