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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Guest Workers Seen as Good for Economy

Russia should not fret over millions of foreign workers because they help it manage currency flows and ease some pressure on the appreciating ruble, a World Bank economist said Monday.

"The one big problem for Russia is a large capital inflow. Russia should not worry about outflows," said John Litwack, the World Bank's chief economist on Russia.

Russia's 12 million foreign workers, who work principally as builders, farm workers and in markets, send home $4 billion to $5 billion per year, a figure Litwack said was "on the conservative side."

Russian officials complain that immigrants, millions of whom work illegally, do not pay taxes and siphon money out of the national economy.

"These worries are groundless," Litwack said, pointing to Russia's $96 billion current account surplus driven by record prices for oil, as well as a $49 billion net private capital inflow.

Remittances from Russia form a large share of gross domestic product in countries like Moldova, Georgia and Ukraine, increasing their political dependence on Russia.

Last year, Russia briefly debated a ban on cross-border money transfers to Georgia, following Georgia's arrest of four Russian army officers on spying charges.