Russian Finance Minister: Russia to Begin Weaning Itself off Oil Dependence in 2003

The year 2003 will not hold any unforeseen circumstances for Russia with regard to financial and economic matters, even taking into account fluctuations in energy prices. This opinion was expressed today by Russian Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin during a meeting with the management of Media Soyuz and the editors of regional publications.

'We will thus fulfill the task set out by the President: to end our dependence on oil, our dependence on favourable external economic conditions,' said the Deputy Prime Minister. Kudrin announced that the budget commitments for 2002 were met without using any funds from the sale of state shareholdings in Slavneft and LUKoil. These funds will be entered into the 2003 budget: USD 1.8 billion from the sale of the government's stake in Slavneft is expected to be received in February, and USD 635 million from the sale of its stake in LUKoil is expected in March. 'This is a good cushion, a reserve for fulfilling all the planned commitments in the 2003 budget,' said Kudrin.

With regard to the Russian economy's dependence on world oil prices, Kudrin stressed that the price of USD 21 a barrel laid out in the 2003 budget would definitely allow all budget commitments to be met. The Finance Minister believes that the average price of oil will not fall below this level in any circumstances.

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