Events from January 5 to January 15, 2004
In January the Ukrainian parliament closed its session. In view of the holidays it lasted only three days. During these days the opposition continued to stymie parliament's activities and as a result parliament did not work.
In this connection some experts express an opinion that President Leonid Kuchma may dismiss parliament: according to the effective constitution he will obtain such a right if parliament is not in session for 30 days (so far it was not in session for 3 days). However most experts believe that at this stage neither the President nor the Prime Minister are interested in early parliamentary elections.
The opposition which earlier demanded the refusal of the reform changed its tactics. It stood out for consideration by parliament of the other version of the reform, which was tabled in the fall of 2003 by a group of lawmakers headed by Stepan Havrysh (the coordinator of the parliament majority) and which differs from the adopted bill only in several points of which only one is substantial: the procedure of electing the president.
At the beginning of the year the Cabinet of Ministers renewed its composition. Mykola Derkach - of the same name as the former chairman of Ukraine's Security Service - was appointed the Minister of Economy instead of Valeriy Khoroshkovsky which retired on January 3.
Commentary. Some analysts believe that Khoroshkovsky intends to take part in the presidential elections in the autumn of 2004.
Oleksander Neustroyev was appointed the Minister of Industrial Policy in place of Anatoly Myalitsa. Viktor Slauta was appointed the Minister of Agrarian Policy in place of Serhiy Ryzhuk.
The observers think that as a result of these rearrangements in the government the influence of two large political-industrial groupings will grow: the "Donetsk" one headed by Viktor Yanukovich and Rinat Akhmetov and Viktor Pinchuk's grouping.
On January 11-14 Minister of Foreign Affairs Konstantuyn Hryshchenko conducted negotiations in London and Brussels.
Mass protest demonstrations were held in the city of El-Kut (Iraq). The Ukrainian peacekeepers who are responsible for maintaining order in this zone restored peace. There were no casualties nor seriously affected people.
Ukraine hopes to join the WTO in the current year
In 2003 Ukraine signed eleven protocols on mutual access to the markets of goods and services: with the EU, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Bulgaria, Cuba, Israel and with Brazil, Poland, Estonia and Thailand. Thus, as of today Ukraine signed 20 protocols on the access to the markets of goods and services within the framework of the WTO. This information was provided by the press service of the Ministry of Economy and European Integration.
At the technical level the negotiation process on the access to the markets of goods and services has been completed and the text of the relevant protocol with Malaysia has been initialed.
The negotiating process with Switzerland is in its conclusive stage. The negotiations with 20 more WTO member countries are under way. Australia, Argentine, China, the U.S.A. and Japan are among these countries.
According to the opinion of the Ministry of Economy Ukraine has a real opportunity to become a full-fledged member of the World Trade Organization as early as this year.
The experts of the WTO Secretariat refer to late 2004 - early 2005 as a rough term for Ukraine's accession to the WTO.
At the same time, a rather distressing information has recently appeared that unless the accession process is completed in 2004 Ukraine may enter the organization only in 2008-2010. This purportedly is related to the forthcoming reformation of the WTO in the course of which new members will not be enrolled.
One of the versions explaining the retirement of Minister of Economy and European Integration Valeriy Khoroshkovsky was his conviction that accession to the WTO in the nearest future was not possible and his striving to avoid his share of political responsibility for it.
No doubt, if the process of Ukraine's accession to the WTO is prolonged to an indefinite time this most seriously will affect Ukraine's Eurointegration aspirations and its foreign policy bearings.
The pace of the industrial growth in Ukraine has accelerated
According to the data of nationals statistics Ukraine in 2003 manufactured products valued by UAH220.6 billion higher than compared with those of 2002 which is by 15.8% higher.
One should take into consideration the fact that a rather large "gray" sector exists in Ukraine, therefore a real figure of the industrial output volume is higher at least by the third.
The dynamics of development of all kinds of industrial activities was positive, the greatest growth was attained in engineering (by 35.8%), cellulose and paper industry and publishing (by 25.7%), production of timber and timber products (by 23.6%).
More than a half of the overall increase of industrial production was secured by the sectors tailored to export its products (chemical industry, metallurgy and engineering).
The share of the manufacturing industry in the total volume of industrial production in 2003 increased from 73.3$ to 77.8% whereas the share of the extractive industry reduced by 1.7 percentage points while that of production and distribution of power, gas and water - by 2.4%.
The growth of industrial production in Ukraine in 2002 constituted 14.2% and in 2000 - 12.4%.
Gold and currency reserves of the National Bank of Ukraine continue to grow
According to the data furnished by the National Bank the NBU gold and currency reserves for 2003 increased by 57.7% or by USD2,538 million and by the end of the year were USD 6,937 million.
The NBU net international reserves increased by 97.8% or by USD 2,526 million and reached 5,108.3 million.
In 2003 the National Bank replenished its reserves at the expense of buying foreign exchange at the interbank market (since the beginning of the year the NBU has bought USD 2,226 million) and also at the expense of the funds obtained from the sale by Ukraine of Eurobonds to the tune of USD 1 billion.
The increase of the National Bank gold and currency reserves in December 2003 was 0.2% and in this case net foreign reserves decreased by 0.9% or by USD46 million (by the National Bank's estimates the reduction of the net reserves with the increase of the gross ones is explained by the fluctuations of the exchange rate).
In 2002 the gold and currency reserves of the NBU increased by 42.2% and were USD4,399.8 million including net foreign reserves, which increased by USD 1, 461.3 million up to USD2,582.3 million. According to forecasts in 2004 the gold and currency reserves of the NBU will constitute about USD8.5 billion.