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RUSSIA

Growth Seen Slowing to 3%

Goldman Sachs warned on Sunday that Russian growth could soon slow to about 3 percent per year, far below Kremlin forecasts predicting the country will be one of the world's top five economies by 2020.

Jim O'Neill, head of global economic research at Goldman Sachs, presented a study at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum showing that growth would slow to 3.3 percent from 2010 to 2015 and to 2.9 percent from 2015 to 2020, much less than the 8.1 percent seen in 2007.

Some officials seemed shocked by the figures, and Economic Development Minister Elvira Nabiullina said the numbers O'Neill had used were half current government forecasts.

"I know that a number of people that saw these numbers wanted to throw tomatoes and various other bits of fruit at me because they are very conservative assumptions for Russian GDP growth," O'Neill said. "This is deliberately conservative."

His estimates showed nominal GDP would more than double to $3 trillion in 2020, becoming the world's eighth-largest, from about $1.3 trillion in 2007. The country has adopted an ambitious 12-year plan to propel it to fifth in the world rankings by 2020. It currently ranks 11th in GDP, just after Brazil, the World Bank says.

"If you want to be big, you have to have a lot of people working. … And it certainly seems to us … that there are going to be less people working because the population will be smaller in 2020," O'Neill said.

(The Moscow Times 9.vi.08)