Audit Chamber head justifies 2003 budget surplus

In the opinion of Chairman of the Russian Audit Chamber Sergey Stepashin, the 2003 budget surplus is justifiable and is linked to peak debt payments amounting to $17bn in 2003. This situation will be preserved until 2005 when the country is to repay $15bn. Stepashin reported this to journalists in the Federation Council before the discussion of this issue by the upper house today. According to him, after 2005, one should not aim at creating a budget surplus, as "there is no budget in the world which would follow such policy".

The Audit Chamber head names better transparency of the 2003 budget against previous ones and accounting for macroeconomic forecasts among the budget's advantages.

Stepashin considers it necessary to adopt the 2003 budget. As for the government's major problem, the head of the Audit Chamber believes it is the development of measures hampering a decline in budget expenditures if a military operation against Iraq is started. In this event, there are two possible scenarios, he said. If world oil prices will be $17 to $18 per barrel, the government is ready "to find reserves for supporting the economy". If oil prices drop to $12 to $15 per barrel, the government will prepare a number of measures for eliminating a threat to the Russian economy, the head of the Audit Chamber concluded.

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