AFTER eight consecutive years of sharp economic decline, Ukraine began registering positive economic growth in the new millennium.
There has been rising industrial output, improving exports and falling inflation. Economic growth in 2000 and 2001 was at 6% and 9% respectively.
The macro economy is stable, with hyperinflation of the early post-independence years having been “tamed.''
These are the plus points. Ukraine is rich in natural resources and has a major ferrous metal industry producing cast iron, steel and steel pipes, and its chemical industry produces mineral fertilisers and sulphuric acid.
It is also a major producer of sugar and grain and possesses a broad industrial base, including much of the former USSR's space industry.
Manufactured goods include metallurgical equipment, diesel locomotives and tractors. Al- though oil reserves are largely exhausted, it has important energy sources such as coal and natural gas, and large mineral deposits.
Ukraine's currency, the hryvnia, was introduced in September 1996, and has remained fairly stable.
However, analysts say the natural resources-rich nation's long-term economic prospects will hinge on acceleration of market reforms.
Total foreign direct investment was US$4.9bil as of October 2002, which at US$101 per capita, is still one of the lowest in the region.
The Ukrainian government is trying to redress this by encouraging foreign trade and investment, with parliament having approved a foreign investment law, allowing Westerners to purchase businesses and property.
An overcrowded world steel market threatens prospects for Ukraine's principal exports of non-agricultural goods such as ferrous metals and other steel products.
Although exports of machinery and machine tools are on the rise, it is not clear if the rate of increase is large enough to make up for probable declines in steel exports.
Ukraine imports 90% of its oil and most of its natural gas.
The country is looking forward to a new lease of life by applying to join the European Union (EU). The government is attempting to create the necessary prerequisites for Ukraine to gain membership in the grouping by 2011.