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#4 - JRL 7061
Kasyanov says Russia no longer faces foreign debt problem

MOSCOW, Feb 12 /Prime-TASS/ -- Russia no longer faces a foreign debt problem, Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov told deputies of the State Duma, the lower house of parliament, Wednesday.

"The foreign debt problem does not exist anymore," he said, adding that during the last three years, the government managed to cut the state’s foreign debt to 40% of gross domestic product (GDP) from 100%.

Russia is expected to pay $17.3 billion on its foreign debts in 2003, $14 billion in 2004 and $16.8 billion in 2005.

Russia's total foreign debt amounted to $149.7 billion as of October 1 2002, posting a decline of 0.9% in January-September, according to data released by the Central Bank of Russia (CBR) on December 31.

The CBR said then that Russia's post-Soviet sovereign debt stood at $48.4 billion as of October 1.

Kasyanov also noted that the 2003 budget was "completely balanced."

But he also said that "the current economic growth is still not sufficient and it could be sped up by the modernization of the state apparatus and by attracting foreign investment in manufacturing."

He said that the government was now working out relevant bills that will soon be submitted to the Duma.

Russia's GDP rose 4.3% on the year in 2002 to 10.8634 trillion rubles, according to the latest preliminary estimates, the State Statistics Committee said last week. (31.7840 rubles – U.S. $1)

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