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Finance Minister: Full Results of Ukraine Reforms to Take Years to Be Seen

FILE - Newly appointed Ukrainian Finance Minister Oksana Markarova attends a parliament session in Kiev, Ukraine, Nov. 22, 2018.
FILE - Newly appointed Ukrainian Finance Minister Oksana Markarova attends a parliament session in Kiev, Ukraine, Nov. 22, 2018.

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 Kyiv 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 for (Ukraine) to be a safe environment for business," Markarova said.

Elzbieta Bienkowska, European Commissioner for the internal market, noted the five richest Ukrainians account for 10% of Ukraine's gross domestic product.

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.

"There is a need to have judicial reform under way to bring under control the abuses of business and of power," he said.

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.

"If there's a violation of a contract you need to know there's a way to go to a court and get a fair decision," he told reporters on the sidelines of the conference, adding he was
optimistic that Ukraine could succeed.

Zelenskiy is due to meet Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau later on Tuesday.