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    Stabilization Fund to hit $110bln by end of 2006 - watchdog

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    Russia's fund to collect petrodollars from high oil prices could total about $110 billion by the end of the year, the head of the Audit Chamber said Monday.

    MOSCOW, June 19 (RIA Novosti) - Russia's fund to collect petrodollars from high oil prices could total about $110 billion by the end of the year, the head of the Audit Chamber said Monday.

    Speaking at an investment conference in the capital, Sergei Stepashin said: "According to a Finance Ministry forecast that the Audit Chamber shares, the Stabilization Fund will reach about 3 trillion rubles, or more than $100 billion, by the end of the year."

    Stepashin said President Vladimir Putin had said in his budgetary statement this year that the fund had to be divided into a reserve and a fund for future generations.

    The reserve is designed to minimize risks of a fall in oil prices and its money will not be spent or invested. The "future generations" fund will accrue surplus oil receipts to be invested in various instruments.

    Investment options for the Stabilization Fund have long been debated in the government and among experts.

    In late April, the government decided to make the fund money work by investing it into major currencies to be deposited in the Russian Central Bank and in foreign bonds. Experts say the investment options could be expanded in the future, to include shares in foreign private corporations.

    As of June 1, the Stabilization Fund stood at 1 trillion 929 billion rubles ($71.48 billion), or an estimated 20.6% of GDP in January-May. In January-May, the fund received 341 billion rubles ($12.6bln) and another 128.9 billion rubles ($4.8bln) in April.

    Earlier reports said the government expected the fund to total 4.07 trillion rubles ($150.4bln) in late 2007.

    Stepashin said accruing petrodollars without investing them was important, but insufficient for removing "monetary factors of inflation."

    Proposals had been made to invest fund money in crucial infrastructure projects in Russia, but they were rejected on grounds that an inflow of money into the Russian market would send inflation up.

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