Ukraine’s parliament accepts chief banker’s resignation

International

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Ukraine’s parliament on Friday accepted the resignation of the country’s top banker, who has stepped down citing political pressure.

National Bank head Yakiv Smolii submitted his letter of resignation Wednesday, pointing at “systematic political pressure” as the reason for his decision. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy quickly accepted it and asked lawmakers to approve the decision.

Smolii told lawmakers that he stepped down to draw a red line against “further attempts to undermine the institutional foundation of Ukraine’s central bank.”

He noted that the National Bank has faced continuous pressure aimed at forcing it to “make decisions that lack economic basis and could cost the Ukrainian economy dearly.”

Smolii was named the acting National Bank head in May 2017 and then was appointed firmly to the job by parliament in March 2018 under Zelenskiy’s predecessor, Petro Poroshenko.

Members of Zelenskiy’s Servant of the People party, which dominates parliament, have criticized the National Bank, arguing that its rigid policies have hurt the economy and stymied growth.

Smolii’s resignation follows the International Monetary Fund’s approval of a $5-billion loan package for Ukraine intended to help it cope with the consequences of the coronavirus pandemic. The Ukrainian economy is expected to shrink by 5% because of the outbreak.

In the wake of Smolii’s resignation, Ukraine’s Finance Ministry canceled a planned offering of dollar-denominated bonds.

The ambassadors of the Group of Seven leading developed nations responded to Smolii’s resignation by emphasizing the crucial importance of the National Bank’s independence.

The European Union also noted Thursday that the National Bank has served Ukraine well by stabilizing the currency, reducing inflation and increasing foreign reserves, adding that Smolii’s resignation “sends a worrying signal.”

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