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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

IMF Gives Thumbs-Up to Economy

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International Monetary Fund first deputy managing director Stanley Fischer said Wednesday he saw a growing "sense of normalcy and confidence in Russia's economy," but warned against complacency.

Fischer, ending a short visit to Moscow as he prepares to leave the fund after seven years, told a news conference the government seemed to have its economic priorities worked out and the potential to carry them through.

He also said if Russia needed IMF support in 2003 — its peak year for foreign debt servicing — the government's current economic policies would make it easy to reach a deal.

"There was a growing sense of normalcy and confidence that one could feel, and there is some evidence to back that up," Fischer told a news conference.

During his visit, he met President Vladimir Putin and other government officials.

He pointed to higher economic growth, tax reforms and other reforms submitted to the State Duma.

"All is not perfect, but all is better than it was a few years ago," he said on the last day of a three-day visit.

But Fischer said Russia should not get caught out.

"The IMF always has a formula at this stage of the proceedings: When things are going well, complacency has to be avoided," he said.

Russia, its gross domestic product growing on the back of world oil prices, has been able to do without IMF loans, ending a period when the fund regularly had to work out economic programs involving billions of dollars of loans to help the economy of the ex-Soviet state.

But Fischer said he and Russian officials had discussed the idea that Russia might need support from the IMF in 2003.

The government has said it is unlikely to ask for new financing from the IMF in 2003, when it is due to repay $18 billion to various creditors, but it has not ruled out the possibility.

"But if it were to arise and Russia was pursuing policies like those it is pursuing now, it would be very easy to arrive at an agreement on an IMF support program," Fischer said.

The IMF has had a mission working in Moscow since last Monday reviewing Russia's draft 2002 budget, which in its current form would be the first in the post-Soviet period to have a surplus.

On Monday, Putin offered to help Fischer find work in Moscow when he leaves the IMF.

"In Moscow, the news of your decision to end your work with the IMF was received with sadness," Putin said in remarks reported by RIA Novosti.

"We are always glad to see you in our country. If you would like to move from the IMF to Moscow, we can look at various options," Interfax quoted Putin as telling Fischer.

(Reuters, MT)