An inflow of foreign investment in the Russian economy increased this year by 40 per cent, compared with the previous year, Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Tuesday, speaking before Belgian businessmen. According to him, total accumulated foreign investment by July 1 of this year had reached 33.84 billion dollars, with 17.57 billion dollars in direct investment. Putin noted that "it seems at first glance that this is not very much", but "if one looks at the dynamics, progress is there". The steps taken by the Russian leadership to debureaucratise the economy and also the lowest tax rate in Europe on incomes of individuals and on profits of enterprises have increased foreign investors' trust in Russia, the Russian president emphasised. Putin pointed to the importance of Russia's earliest entry into the World Trade Organisation. In his opinion, this will create more favourable conditions for foreign investors. Putin expressed hope that Belgian business quarters would help Russia in its negotiating process on its entry into the WTO. The Russian president also pointed to expanding contacts between the Russian side and the European Investment Bank, which is ready to join in major infrastructure projects of all-European significance on Russia's territory, including international transport corridors. Informing his audience of the state of the Russian economy, Putin said that over the last 6 months the GDP had grown by 5 per cent, and industrial output in the country during the first 8 months increased by 5.3 per cent, compared with the same period of last year. "These rates exceed not only the average world figures, but also the pace of growth of all developed countries," the Russian head of state said.