President Vladimir Putin:
Good afternoon dear gentlemen!
I am very glad to welcome you to Moscow and I expect that this first meeting between G8 finance ministers during the Russian presidency will create a good basis both for further joint work in fields such as energy and education, and for future high-level contacts.
I must say at once that the G8 presidency in 2006 represents one of Russia's foreign policy priorities. And we believe that it is extremely important to not only make a new contribution but also to continue the work begun by the G8. It is obvious that such an approach will allow us to seriously increase the positive results that are a product of the G8's work over the past few years. We intend to work in just that way concerning all the issues that have been put forward for the summit's agenda in St Petersburg.
As you know these issues are the following: international energy security, the struggle with infectious diseases, and problems related to education.
We consider that these issues are extremely important for the whole international community as well as for our partners within the G8. And I shall add that today all of these issues are priorities for Russia itself, since Russia has embarked on large-scale tasks concerning economic modernization, the development of human capital, and strengthening its position in the world's financial and economic system.
You are certainly familiar with the general results of our work in 2005. I shall just allow myself to say that in 2005 GDP growth was 6,4 percent, the gold and currency reserves grew and today amount to 185 billion USD. The federal budget surplus amounts to 7,5 percent of GDP. The trade surplus is also quite significant.
According to leading international agencies and auditors the forecasts concerning Russia's future remain favourable. We have almost completed negotiations for Russia's accession to the WTO. I hope that this will take place. Today the main problem that has not been resolved is negotiations with our American partners. I expect that in the very near future we will also be able to conclude these negotiations.
Returning to the agenda of this year's G8 summit I shall touch on its general characteristics and main items.
In many respects energy defines international security and social and economic development today. In practice the well-being of millions of people directly depends on it, on energy security. We consider that the G8 will be able to develop a coordinated strategy in this sphere, a strategy that allows us to ensure that the world's population and global economy have access to energy resources at affordable prices and with minimal damage to the environment.
In our opinion, we need a number of measures to ensure the stability and predictability of the supplies of electrical energy, nuclear energy and raw materials such as oil and gas for world markets. Unfortunately, today these markets are subject to serious political, technical and ecological risks.
One of the most important tasks is increasing energy supplies and their effectiveness, developing alternative sources of energy, and the struggle with the so-called energy poverty of developing countries.
Forming a favourable investment climate and stable transparent rules in the global energy sector has a serious role to play in energy security. In Russia we are already working on such rules and are ready to discuss them with our partners.
Another fundamental direction is developing a constructive dialogue between basic producers and consumers of energy resources. In our opinion, that dialogue must be supported by developing coordinated collective measures aimed at stabilizing markets, especially in crisis situations. Therefore when we speak about collective measures we must not forget that market mechanisms play the key role. And the task of the G8 and other international forums is to create the conditions for them to be able to work in an uninterrupted way.
The G8 may not stay away from the topical problem of the spread of infectious diseases. These illnesses are responsible for a third of all the deaths that occur in the world. We believe that we should pay very close attention to strengthening the global network that allows us to gain information and monitor infectious diseases, including those that are reappearing today.
Such a system must react to new threats in an operative way so as to minimize both the human and economic losses from epidemics.
In addition we suggest adopting a G8 action plan concerning the struggle against the avian flu and preventing a possible pandemic of flu among humans, and also developing a number of measures to prevent natural catastrophes from resulting in epidemics.
In connection with this I highly value the results of January's conference on avian flu that took place in Beijing and following which donors took upon themselves the responsibility for allocating 1,9 billion USD to finance measures in the struggle against this disease.
We also welcome proposals from finance ministers on how to analyse the financial and economic consequences of a possible flu pandemic. I believe that in addition to being able to make an accurate forecast it is important to develop concrete coordinated steps to minimize the potential losses for the global economy.
Certainly during the Russian presidency we shall look at how previous decisions by the G8 regarding eradicating polio, the struggle against HIV infections, AIDS and tuberculosis are being implemented.
It is obvious that problems in the field of education are global in nature. Today improving the quality and effectiveness of national education systems is an absolute must. Humankind's general progress and, especially, the prospects for developing a dialogue between civilizations and cultures, and counteracting extremist ideology that uses violence, intolerance, and the threat of terror directly depend on this.
By raising the issue of education we shall also discuss systematic problems such as innovative policies, demography, language and the social and cultural acclimatization of migrants.
2005 was a successful year for the global economy and the rates of growth exceeded four percent. However, despite good predictions for growth in 2006 there are a number of occasions for concern. The global economic and financial architecture can prove unstable. We are also going to touch on this problem during the St Petersburg summit. Of course I would like to hear your opinions on this issue during today's meeting.
In this context I would also like to touch on the theme of preventing money laundering and terrorist financing. We suggest that G8 members share their experience in this issue and further strengthen the potential for other countries to be effective in this field. It is important to expand the geographical aspect of the said tasks and pay special attention to Central Asia. We consider that the G8 countries could participate in a more active way in the activities of the Eurasian countries along the lines of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) to combat money laundering and terrorist financing. In particular by sending experts together with Russian specialists to carry out training sessions in these countries.
Certainly, during the Russian presidency we are going to bring up a number of questions concerning so-called development assistance. In the past few years we have paid constant attention to these issues and Russia plans to increase its participation in international efforts in this direction. Literally just the other day we made fundamental decisions about participating in the IMF's programmes for providing financial assistance to poor countries suffering from all kinds of external shocks-technical, financial and economic ones. Between 2006 and 2010 a voluntary payment of 30 million special loan rights, equivalent to approximately 43,5 million USD, will be allocated for this purpose.
I would like to draw your attention to another one of our initiatives that we believe will help the development of the poorest countries. I am referring to Russia's readiness to repay the Paris Club up to 11,9 billion USD ahead of schedule. I know that Mr Kudrin has already discussed this problem with you and I think that a little later you will be able to express your opinion on this issue. I would be interested to know your opinion.
It is well-known that today some creditor countries lack the necessary amounts of free financial resources. And they can use financial resources from Russia to fulfill their obligations to the International Development Association for cancelling the debts of the poorest countries. From a budgetary and technical point of view this is easily resolved because if Russia repays its debts ahead of schedule it means that this money will not have been taken into account in your countries' current budgets.
In turn, Russia is ready to pay the International Development Association up to 587 million USD to cover the remaining deficit in its balance, the so-called structural financing gap.
Implementing our numerous proposals will allow us to ensure the financial stability of the International Development Association for a minimum of five to ten years, depending on the scenario we choose.
This initiative supplements the obligation taken by the G8 members at Gleneagles to write off the debts of the poorest countries. And I emphasize that this does not go against the financial and political interests of the donor countries.
I believe that our partners' support for Russia's proposal will act as real proof of the G8's readiness to carry out its obligations concerning writing off the debts and helping the poorest countries of the world.
And in conclusion I would like to say that I am absolutely convinced of the fact that the Russian Federation's full-fledged participation in various formats, including in the meeting between G8 finance ministers, would undoubtedly help the search for finding more effective joint solutions to the tasks at hand.
Once again I warmly welcome you to Moscow and I wish you successful work.
Thanks very much for your attention.
We agreed that we shall now have a public meeting in which the press will also participate that will be followed by a photography session. We shall then pass to lunch where we will be able to discuss all the problems you consider necessary in an informal atmosphere.
I hope that yesterday evening was successful and that, despite the cold, you are enjoying Moscow.