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    DUMA VICE-SPEAKER MAKES ECONOMIC FORECASTS

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    MOSCOW, FEBRUARY 27 (RIA NOVOSTI) - Lucrative oil prices will help Russia to increase its stabilization fund to 300 billion rubles, roughly $10 bn, by the year's end, expects Alexander Zhukov, First Deputy Speaker of the State Duma, parliament's lower house.

    With steady economic progress and high fuel prices, the country can count on a $100 billion federal budget for next year, he reassured the media.

    The MP expects a fiscal reform, on in Russia, to finish within the year and bring more revenues. Two to three billion dollars will come in if Russia increases oil export duties - which will be done if prices overleap $25 a barrel.

    The VAT will shrink to 15 per cent, and the overall tax burden come down to attract capital investors. That, however, will be too good to be true unless a judicial reform offers efficient protection of property rights.

    Social problems are closely linked to all that. The people-in-the-street cannot become better off unless the whole country makes rapid economic progress, said Mr. Zhukov as he called to tie in wage rises with increasing labor efficiency.

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