MOSCOW, March 2 (RIA Novosti) - Russia could use part of its Stabilization Fund to invest in foreign assets, the country's economic development and trade minister said Thursday.
German Gref said it was not yet clear what assets these might be, but that "first and foremost, the issue of reliability has to be considered."
The Stabilization Fund was set up to accumulate windfall revenues resulting from high oil prices.
"I fully support the position of [Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin] on investing Stabilization Fund resources within the country," he said, adding that this would lead to an increase in the burden inflation places on the population.
Asked by journalists to comment on Stabilization Fund discussions at a government meeting on Thursday between Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin and deputy chief of the government staff Mikhail Kopeikin, Gref said: "I didn't see Mr Kopeikin's calculations, so I have little to say on this ... We will certainly look at Mr Kopeikin's report."
At the meeting, Kudrin strongly opposed Kopeikin's view that the Stabilization Fund would suffer major losses due to inflation. He said Kopeikin had claimed that the fund would lose 600 billion rubles ($28.4 billion).
Kudrin said, "I have consulted with my colleagues - [Central Bank Chairman Sergei] Ignatyev, [head of the Federal Service for Financial Markets Oleg] Vyugin, [head of the presidential expert department Arkady] Dvorkovich, and [Central Bank First Deputy Chairman Alexei] Ulyukayev. Our shared opinion is that this is a misguided statement. There are no such losses."
"The government, the State Duma [Russia's lower house of parliament], and the president, in establishing the rules for managing the Stabilization Fund, took into account the nature of these funds, and set out that they cannot be invested in ruble assets. Therefore such a statement, and a calculation of losses in rubles, is misguided," Kudrin said.
Speaking later, Kopeikin said: "The point is that inflation is actually eating away at funds deposited in rubles, and losses are calculated without account for the influence of other factors, and all of this has to be clarified."
Kopeikin said Wednesday that the draft resolution on investing Stabilization Fund resources had been sent to the Finance Ministry for further work. The question had been raised of whether these resources would be sufficient to buy the assets of large and reliable foreign companies, Kopeikin said, adding that the question of investing the funds in Russian companies was not being considered.
As of February 1, the Stabilization Fund held 1.4591 trillion rubles ($51.7 billion), up 18% on the previous month, according to the Finance Ministry.