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    PUTIN BELIEVES THAT FOR 4 YEARS OF HIS RULE, ECONOMIC SITUATION IN RUSSIA CHANGED DRASTICALLY

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    MOSCOW, February 12 (RIA Novosti) - Russian President Vladimir Putin believes that for the last four years, the economic situation in the country has drastically changed. At a Thursday meeting in Moscow he said the GDP growth from 1999 totaled almost 30%, and the inflation rate went down three times.

    The Russian leader said there is no need any more for constant increase of the taxes rates to answer state priorities. As a result, Putin said, for a second year in a row, medium sized companies have been increasing their production rates.

    In his words, there are several thousand efficient enterprises in the country.

    "Those who work efficiently start winning the market, not those who become rich at the expense of economically unjustified privileges and preferences," said the Russian president.

    The president believes that "one of fundamental achievements" of the recent years is the financial independence gained by Russia and the stability of the national currency - the ruble. Putin emphasized that the issue of paying out Russia's foreign debt is "practically resolved." "Only in 2003, we paid out $17 billion, and the country didn't even feel it," said the Russian leader.

    He said that within these years Russia paid out $50 billion, including interest, on foreign debts.

    Gold and hard currency reserves of the country's Central Bank reached a record high level for the country's history, including the Soviet period - over $84 billion, the president said.

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