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Russia could have a budget deficit for the first
Russia could have a budget deficit for the first time in a decade next year as the global economic crisis and low energy prices hit government revenues, a newspaper reported on Wednesday.

The Vedomosti business daily said that even with an optimistic oil price of $50 a barrel, the budget will be several trillion rubles short.

It quoted an official from the Economic Development Ministry as saying that a deficit is inevitable and would be 3%-6% of gross domestic product, while a Finance Ministry official said the working figure for the shortfall was 5% of GDP.

The economics ministry official said that from the recent macroeconomic forecasts it could be estimated that 32% of predicted revenues, or about 3.5 trillion rubles ($123 billion), would be missing.

Alexandra Suslina of the Economic Expert Group, an independent think tank, told the paper that oil and gas revenues could be half the budgeted amount, and the total reduction in government income would be about 3 trillion rubles.

The economics ministry official said budget expenditures could be cut 8%, but that the figures did not include the anti-crisis measures adopted by the government. Yelena Lebedinskaya of the Economic Expert Group said anti-crisis expenditures could push the total deficit to 9.5 trillion rubles.

Lebedinskaya said the deficit would have to be made up with borrowing - limited by the budget code to 1% of GDP - and tapping the Reserve Fund, which totaled 3.661 trillion rubles ($132.63 billion) at the end of November.

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