03:28 GMT +324 March 2018
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    MOSCOW, July 15 (RIA Novosti) - Russian Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin said at a cabinet meeting on Thursday that continuing to reduce the national debt to a safe 20-25% of GDP was a prime objective for the government.

    A decrease in recent years of the national debt with respect to GDP was due to growing GDP rather than the declining debt, according to Mr. Kudrin.

    In 2008, Russia's debt will total 4.196 trillion roubles ($1 equals around 29 roubles) against 4.207 trillion roubles in 2005. Thus, it will be only slightly reduced. Mr. Kudrin believes stabilization fund money will have to be drawn to reduce the debt.

    The foreign debt ratio is continuing to exceed the domestic debt ratio in the country's overall national debt, according to the finance minister.

    Mr. Kudrin told reporters that the final round of talks with the World Bank on a loan for the reform of Russia's housing and utilities sector might take place in early 2005.

    "The final round of talks with the World Bank to discuss loan conditions and all the parameters will be held in the near future. I think that will take place early next year," said the minister.

    The WB may allocate $200 million for the reform, according to Mr. Kudrin.

    "A loan to Belarus for the purchase of Russian natural gas is expected to be issued this year. We will therefore have to amend the loan program," he said.

    Mr. Kudrin said relevant talks with Belarus had been completed and the loan scheme and terms and conditions had been determined. However, the minister did not cite any figures.

    "We will have to introduce an amendment to the law on the budget to allocate a loan to Belarus," said Mr. Kudrin.

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