Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon.
We are very glad to welcome you to Russia.
We have always viewed our cooperation with the IMF as a key factor both in the financial sector and in the Russian economy as a whole, and as a factor which we have tried to use effectively to integrate the Russian economy into the Western world’s economy.
You know that Russia has reached a new level today in its cooperation with the IMF, primarily because we now independently draft our own debt-free economic programmes.
But this does not mean that further cooperation is unnecessary. On the contrary, we take a serious view of it and look forward to continuing our active dialogue. We hope this cooperation will be not only methodical and consultative, but also substantive. We are very much interested in the three-year programme our experts are now working on.
You know about our economic results for the recent period. I am not going to repeat the basic figures, but I wish to stress that our economy continues to grow. This year we plan to increase GDP by about 5.5% or 5.7%, and perhaps even by 5.8%.
People’s real incomes are also rising. In the first eight months of the year, they have grown by more than five per cent. This year’s rate of inflation will be slightly higher than we would like it to be, but lower than last year’s – by more than two percentage points. And as you know, the currency reserves of Russia’s Central Bank are also growing.
All this allows us to make you an offer you can hardly refuse. We are ready to begin early repayment of the loans taken out by the Central Bank. Out of the total amount owed by the Central Bank, or $4.7 billion, we are ready to start paying back $2.7 billion this and next year, including our debts due for repayment in 2003.
I must say we are very pleased to see you, Mr Koehler, and your colleagues. We also have other things to discuss. And we hope that your stay in Russia will be not only very enjoyable, but also very useful for the Fund and for Russia. We look forward to yet another meeting with you, and we hope for highly constructive and diversified work with the Fund.