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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Kiev to Host IMF Head in Symbolic Meet

KIEV -- Ukraine's President Leonid Kuchma, displaying his reformist credentials a week after taking office, on Wednesday will welcome the head of the International Monetary Fund to Kiev.

The stakes are high for Ukraine's poverty-stricken people and for the West, which has offered Kiev billions of dollars in aid provided it shows commitment to economic reforms.

All Ukrainian eyes are on Kuchma to see if he will come through on a promise to improve the economy.

"We can't just keep putting band-aids on economic problems," deputy Finance Minister Boris Sobolev told journalists recently.

In a sign that he intends to act, Kuchma invited IMF head Michel Camdessus to Kiev, just three weeks after the Group of Seven offered Ukraine $4 billion.

Four governments and 2 1/2 years after independence, Ukraine has yet to introduce meaningful economic reforms. Exporters still swap half their export earnings at an artificially low fixed exchange rate and privatization has barely begun.

Camdessus' visit is strictly symbolic -- no documents have been prepared for signing -- but it shows that Kuchma is bent on speeding up reform.

On the home front, Kuchma summoned Ukraine's top economists to discuss pressing problems, including plummeting industrial output and a widening budget deficit which prompted the issue of millions of dollars in inflationary unbacked credits.

He gave his staff two weeks to draft decrees covering currency regulation, easing debts between enterprises, protecting the domestic market and tax reform.

Under outgoing president Leonid Kravchuk, Ukraine failed to qualify for a $700 million "systemic transformation facility" from the IMF -- the first step to start other cash flowing.