While today’s headlines focus on the truce agreement between Ukraine and Russia, a significant economic milestone was achieved yesterday with the IMF’s announcement that its staff has reached agreement with the government on a new four-year program. The Fund’s Board will likely consider the program next month. Whether or not the truce holds, the program is the core of western financial support for Ukraine. Is it enough?
Over the past year, Europe has enjoyed calm financial markets. At the core of the market’s comfort were two assumptions about policy. First, that the European governments would do just enough to keep the process of European integration moving forward. Second, that the ECB would, in the words of Mario Draghi, do “whatever it takes” to save the euro. The centerpiece of the ECB’s subsequent efforts was expanded liquidity (through long-term repurchase operations and easier collateral requirements for banks to access ECB liquidity) and a commitment to purchase government bonds to support countries return to market (the OMT program). Even many pessimists who fear that Europe is trapped on a unsustainable, low-growth trajectory remain optimistic that Europe will do what it takes to navigate the near term risks. It may be time to question that optimism.