On Tuesday German Gref, minister of economic development and trade, stated to journalists that in 2001 the Russian economy had been developing more dynamically than it was predicted. According to the minister, the GDP growth will amount by the end of the year to 5 - 5.5 percent, investments growth will reach 8.3 percent. He announced that the final data would be summarized by April 2002. The minister described as record-breaking indicators the growth by 80 percent of the Russian Trade System stock index and significant reduction of unemployment figure from 7.1 million people to 6.3 million. Gref indicated that in the current year the investment climate in Russia had improved, the tax burden was decreased and the approach to taxation underwent changes. In 2001 the Ministry of Economic development and trade prepared several dozens of legislative acts. Among them the minister singled out the Land Code, Labour Code, a package of pension reform laws, the Law to counteract legalization of illegally acquired funds, the program of social and economic development of Russia till 2004 as well as enactments of the government regarding the structural transformation of the railroad transport and electric power engineering. According to Gref, the Russian economy will go through the next year more calmly than economies of other countries. Nevertheless he indicated that if the first half of 2002 showed economic recession in the USA and Europe, then this might affect the development of Russian economy in the second half of the year when the recession results would be felt. The minister was of the opinion that one should not expect high oil prices in the global market in the next year and, possibly, gas prices would be reduced. Gref also stressed that this year foundations for large-scale structural reform were laid down in Russia which would be continued in the next year. They planned, in particular, to adopt the law on bankruptcy, the Customs code, a package of taxation laws related to provision of incentives to small and medium business and development of free economic zones.
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