Finance minister predicts oil price beating expectations in 2004

In 2004, the average annual price for Urals crude may exceed $22.5 per barrel, Russian Finance Minister Alexey Kudrin said at a round-table meeting of Russian and European industrialists. According to the minister, in 2003 the average annual oil price is expected at over $26 per barrel. "In 2004 the forecasted oil price is $22.5, but I do not rule out that it will go higher", the official pointed out. In this event, it will serve as an additional factor for growth in investments next year, Kudrin mentioned.

The surplus of the budget is to total 0.6 percent of the GDP, and, according to the official, in the medium-term perspective it will hover between 0.5 percent and 0.6 percent of the GDP. By the end of 2003 Russia's economic growth would amount to 6.6 percent, which is a lot, compared to the European and the global economy, the finance minister noted. "We hope to keep up this pace", he said.

Kudrin added that in 2003 inflation would total 12 percent, and would reduce by 2 percent every consecutive year.

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