The Ukrainian government has decided to substantially increase utility tariffs for domestic consumers to ease the burden on the public finances, Finance Minister Alexandr Shlapak said Wednesday. The government would raise gas price by 73 percent, while heating fees would be increased by 40 percent, Shlapak said. The first gas price hike would take effect on May 1 and further rises would be scheduled until 2017, he added. Ukraine, which pays around 385 U.S. dollars per 1,000 cubic meters of gas imports, has been heavily subsidizing its households for natural gas. Local economists estimate the country's losses due to the huge energy subsidies at 7.5 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP). Below-market utility tariffs were one of the reasons for delayed allocation of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) loan to Ukraine. Last week, the IMF mission in Kiev agreed on a loan between 14 billion and 18 billion U.S. dollars to Ukraine in exchange for reforms in energy, financial and business sectors.