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Kudrin Says Capital Inflow Has Resumed

Capital flows into Russia have resumed and stand at $6 billion over the last month and at $60 billion for the year to date, Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin said Friday. 

"We have secured the financial stability of our economy," Kudrin told a conference of the Academy of National Economics. 

The country saw record high capital inflows of $70 billion in the first half of 2007 as companies went on a borrowing spree abroad while foreign investors bet on the appreciating ruble. 

The trend reversed in August, when international investors fled emerging markets in the face of the global credit crunch. 

Kudrin said Russia had coped well with the crunch thanks to prompt action by the Central Bank, its large foreign exchange reserves and low external debt. 

Kudrin said low external debt of only 31 percent of gross domestic product put the country in a much stronger position to withstand financial shocks than neighboring Kazakhstan, whose total external debt equals 95 percent of GDP. 

"We have managed to lower this risk thanks to our understanding of this significance," Kudrin said. 

Kudrin also told the Federation Council on Friday that the consumer price index rose by 1.3 percent in the first 22 days of October, Interfax reported. 

Kudrin said CPI had risen by 8.9 percent since the start of the year. Officials earlier said inflation would end the year at about 10 percent due to a global rise in food prices. 

The government, seeking to calm public discontent over rising prices ahead of the State Duma elections in December, has introduced a series of administrative measures, which include intervention sales of government grain stocks. Food companies and retailers this week signed a pact to freeze the prices of basic staples such as milk, bread and eggs until the end of January, a measure described by economists as Soviet-style state intervention. 

Kudrin said that in the last 10 days, food price growth rates had halved and promised more administrative measures to break up monopolies on local food markets that are controlled by local authorities. "In many cases these monopolies are municipal enterprises. There is a conflict of interest," Kudrin said. 

Federal Anti-Monopoly Service chief Igor Artemyev said Friday that his agency would carry out a series of checks into food price hikes in 75 regions, RIA-Novosti news agency reported. The service plans a total of 500 checks, he told the Federation Council, RIA-Novosti reported. 

Artemyev said the checks had to be carried out because some traders were abusing their monopolistic positions, RIA-Novosti said. In some regions, traders have been speculating on prices for basic foodstuffs, the official said. 

The service has so far uncovered 40 cases of abuse of monopolistic positions, RIA-Novosti said. It will publicize results of the checks in the next several weeks. 

The service's deputy head Andrei Tsarikovsky said last week that his service had already checked markets selling milk, butter, meat and cheese in the Krasnoyarsk, Tomsk, Perm, Penza, Rostov and Ivanov regions.


(The Moscow Times 29.x.07)

 
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