President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Ms Lagarde, colleagues, good evening.
We highly value our contacts with the IMF, which plays a very important role in international financial stability. We are aware of your concerns with regard to the state of the global economy and we share them.
We feel that the reasons for such instability remain as before: they are, first and foremost, deep structural imbalances, the decrease in business activity and investment in the real sector of the economy. This leads to volatility in raw materials markets and results in a kind of vicious circle: low growth makes it impossible to get rid of debt, and time is pressuring the debt activity.
As you know, our priorities remain the same. We are trying to not only ensure growth, but also change its quality. We are giving paramount significance to maintaining a healthy macroeconomic policy. As you know, we have one of the lowest debt indicators among the G20 nations and fairly high gold and forex reserves. We are continuing to monitor our inflation rate and to target it very carefully.
I am sure you know that recently our national currency, the ruble, has been subject to some speculative attacks. I hope that the series of steps taken by the Central Bank, including the most recent steps that were declared today, will normalise the situation, because it is our deep conviction that there are no fundamental factors or reasons for such imbalances in the national currency.
Today the Central Bank announced that the ruble is transitioning to the so-called free floating regime. However, the Central Bank preserves the right to conduct interventions when it deems appropriate. And if the Central Bank also maintains a certain level of liquidity, then it will certainly punish the profiteers who are getting ready to take further speculative steps.
Nevertheless, I hope that the Central Bank and the Government will carefully monitor what is happening in the economy, meaning the rates at which loans are issued to the real sector of the economy.
As you know, the executive level of government in Russia does not get involved in the Central Bank’s policy: in accordance with the law, the Central Bank pursues an independent policy, but naturally, we closely monitor what is happening and will try to implement all our objectives and development goals through joint efforts.
IMF Head Christine Lagarde: Mr President, first of all, thank you very much for having this meeting. And I offer my apologies for being late, but the Chinese police clearly did not understand that I was coming to visit with you, so they tried to hold me back away from you.
Vladimir Putin: Don’t be upset with them. They are doing their duty.
Christine Lagarde: Yes, I know, I know. I had to show my name.
I would like to thank Russia for its support to the IMF, and I have to say that it’s gratifying to have your country support us in our mission to keep stability around the world. And you’ve always been by our side, including to approve programmes which have been difficult, and that’s what I would like to talk to you about. And I would like to also tell you, candidly, our view about the Russian economy, because you are a very highly regarded and valuable member of the institution, and I owe that report back to you.