Ukraine: cutting graft top priority to reach new bailout

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DAVOS, Switzerland (AP) — Ukraine will focus on fixing its huge problem of corruption as it tries to convince its international rescue creditors to give it more loans, a government official said Saturday.

Dmytro Shymkiv, deputy head of the presidential administration, asked for patience, noting that big reforms take time if they are to be made democratically.

The economy and public finances of Ukraine have been drained by uncertainty over the country's future amid a war in its eastern region. The country got bailout loans from the International Monetary Fund, European Union and U.S. last year. But with no end in sight to its economic problems, it is asking for more.

The IMF and EU have said that is impossible if Ukraine does not step up — and accelerate — its efforts to overhaul its economy.

Shymkiv told The Associated Press that graft was top of the to-do list: "We start on anti-corruption."

The government will also try to make the judicial system more open, streamline the civil service and overhaul law enforcement, he said on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

Under time pressure, with the talks on new rescue loans pending, Shymkiv appealed for patience. He noted the task of modernizing an entire country is huge, and that the democratic process of negotiations involved in reforms takes time: "Democracy slows the pace of reforms."

But "we fought for democracy on the Maidan," he said, referring to the square in the capital where protests brought down the previous, pro-Russian regime.

He said 2015 will be a tough year, as the government looks to cut spending "across everything," with an economic improvement seen only in 2016.

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