By David Ljunggren
TORONTO (Reuters) – It will take years for the full effects of reforms to be seen in Ukraine, where the government is trying to cast off Soviet-era institutions while clamping down on corruption, Finance Minister Oksana Markarova said on Tuesday.
She made her remarks to a Toronto conference on reforms in Ukraine where other high-level participants stressed the need for major changes to the judiciary to give investors confidence.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy took power in April on promises to root out corruption amid widespread dismay over rising prices and sliding living standards. Ukraine is due to hold parliamentary elections on July 21.
Markarova, finance minister in the outgoing government, said Kiev was moving to modernize a range of institutions.
“We are doing this very quickly but it will take years for the true results to be fully seen,” she said, adding later that “there will be mistakes, there will be a learning curve”.
Investors, she said, complained about lack of respect for the rule of law, poor infrastructure and a lack of capital.
“We have to enter right now into more structural, deeper reforms, (such as) land reform. Law enforcement and judicial reforms have to be completed in order,” Markarova said.
Zelenskiy later met Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and told reporters he was confident his party would get a majority in the election and press ahead with reforms.
“During the first month in power, we revoked 161 previous acts which were an impediment for businesses,” he said.
Canada is one of Ukraine’s closest allies and since 2014 has provided more than C$140 million ($106.7 million) in development assistance to support economic reform and economic growth.
“We will be patient of course because there is a lot of work to do but we will also be appropriately impatient … to see the results,” said Trudeau.
Zelenskiy’s predecessor, Petro Poroshenko, unveiled a special court to try corruption cases in April in a bid to root out entrenched corruption and ring-fence court decisions from political pressure or bribery.
David Lipton, first deputy managing director of the International Monetary Fund, said western investors were not yet sure Ukraine would remain stable despite the efforts of the government over the last four years.
Another challenge is the low-level war Ukraine is fighting against Russian-backed actors in the east.
Kurt Volker, a U.S. special envoy to Ukraine, said lack of investor confidence had done “terrible things” to Ukraine’s economy.
($1 = 1.3112 Canadian dollars)
(Reporting by David Ljunggren; Editing by James Dalgleish)