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#4 - JRL 7239
Russia sticks to 4.5 pct 03 GDP growth target

MOSCOW, June 25 (Reuters) - Russia's economy ministry said on Wednesday that its official forecast for Russia's 2003 gross domestic product (GDP) growth remained at 4.5 percent, backtracking on its latest economy growth estimate.

On Monday the ministry released an economic development report which included the ministry's estimate that Russia's economy was poised for a 5.4 percent rise this year after growth topped seven percent in the first five months of the year.

"The (5.4 percent GDP) estimate...reflects our estimated calculations based on an assumption that current favourable trends, including the situation on global oil markets, would continue," the ministry said in a statement released on its website www.economy.gov.ru.

It also said the ministry would review Russia's official 2003 GDP forecast after the actual data for the first six months of the year was available.

Russia, the world's second largest crude oil exporter, had been initially aiming for 3.5-4.4 percent GDP growth in 2003 depending on global crude prices but officials raised their forecast to 4.5 percent after a strong start to the year.

Economists have said the official economy growth target for 2003 looked conservative given strong global crude and commodities prices, mounting investment and robust domestic demand.

Their estimates for Russia's 2003 economy growth range from 4.5 percent to seven percent. The economy grew 4.3 percent last year.

Analysts representing a more cautious view say that a decline in global crude prices as well as lack of structural reform may drag on economy growth rates in the second half of the year.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has forecast a four percent growth.

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