In 2002 Russia's state debt will contract to 48 percent of GDP from this year's 55 percent. This forecast was made by vice-premier and finance minister Alexei Kudrin. According to him, in 2002 payments to redeem the state debt will be made in full and the government will do without attracting IMF loans. The vice-premier noted that important steps are to be made in tax policy next year, i.e. tax burden will be lowered by 1.8 percent of GDP, including profit tax rate cut from 35 percent to 24 percent; a tax on mineral resource mining will be introduced to substitute four currently effective taxes. Russian offshores will be eliminated. Budget expenditures, Kudrin stated, are being increased in priority directions such as wages of budget-dependent workers, military servicemen and persons similar to them included. The number of federal targeted programmes will be reduced from 133 in 2001 to 48 in 2002. All this is being done for top priority programmes to be financed in full, Kudrin asserted.
Forest fires in Siberia have been raging for three months already. They have become a disaster not only of Russian, but of global scale. The fires have already scorched 12 million hectares of land