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The Russian government has not backtracked on its plans to privatize state-owned banks
The Russian government has not backtracked on its plans to privatize state-owned banks, Russian Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin said on Thursday as he spoke at a ceremony of announcing the top 50 banks in Russia, the rating that had been circulated by the Bankir magazine. "The government is not backtracking on its plans for the stage-by-stage privatization of state-owned banks," said Mr. Kudrin. "We are only trying to boost competition in the banking sector, although it goes without saying that the state should withdraw gradually from banks' capital," emphasized the minister. Russia's banking sector will have a hard time in the next few years keeping up the current capitalization growth pace. "Capitalization growth rate in Russia's banking sector has been the highest over the past 2-3 years," said Mr. Kudrin. If global oil prices remain within $28-$31 per barrel, Russia will repay a considerable part of its debt to the Paris Club of Creditor Nations, according to Mr. Kudrin. "This will depend on the amount of money in the budget and the stabilization fund. These figures are difficult to forecast," the minister said when asked about the possibility of repaying the Paris Club debt ahead of schedule. Mr. Kudrin added that in case oil prices remained $28-$31 "we will be able to repay the considerably part of the Paris Club debt in 3-4 years' time." The gradual settlement of the Paris Club debt in cash is being considered as the main early payment option at talks with the club. Mr. Kudrin also confirmed Russia's intention to pay the debt to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) ahead of schedule if extra money was available. However, this debt is not a priority for Russia, according to the minister. "The Paris Club debt is more important to us," said Mr. Kudrin. As of January 1, 2004, Russia's debt to the IMF was some $5 billion, while the debt to the Paris Club stood at $46 billion
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