MOSCOW, June 5 (Reuters) - The Russian Finance Ministry would like to use the National Wealth Fund to support state exports, seeking to minimise risks from Western sanctions and also cut domestic borrowing, its head of state debt has told Reuters.
The Fund, initially designed to support the pension system, will in the next few months exceed a threshold stipulated by the budget law, after which the government will be able to use it to invest in new projects.
Konstantin Vyshkovsky said his ministry and the Economy Ministry agreed that the surplus funds should be used to support Russia’s exports.
“But we and the Economy Ministry have a different view on how to do it,” Vyshkovsky said in an interview cleared for publication on Tuesday.
The government has yet to decide what to do with the National Wealth Fund after a so-called “liquid part”, currently around 60% of the entire fund, exceeds 7% of gross domestic product. Vyshkovsky said this could happen by year-end.
The National Wealth Fund, a part of Russia’s sovereign reserves, stood at 3.81 trillion roubles or $58.96 billion as of May 1, and around 40% of it is already invested in national projects and deposited at state banks.
The Economy Ministry had suggested that the funds could be deposited at Russian banks for them to use to support Russian companies operating abroad.
But Vyshkovsky said that, given the risks that Western sanctions pose for Moscow, it would be better for Russia to use some of the surplus on issuing sovereign loans to countries that can use them to pay for Russian exports.
“The advantage of our approach is in a higher level of legal protection of the investment and a lower level of risk,” Vyshkovsky said.
“For instance: You want to buy a good or service in Russia, to order the construction of facilities such as a nuclear plant. You get goods or facilities against this loan, while the financing itself is carried out inside Russia.”
In this scenario, a company that supplies goods or services or carries out construction work will receive money from the Russian budget, Vyshkovsky said, adding that Russia will thus carry risks at the sovereign level only.
This approach will also help the Finance Ministry to reduce borrowing on the domestic market by several billion dollars a year, Vyshkovsky said, as the ministry is now issuing state loans using funds that it raises on the debt market.
The Finance Ministry has had to increase state borrowing in the past few years to finance state projects that President Vladimir Putin ordered to boost Russia’s economic potential. (Writing by Andrey Ostroukh; Editing by Kevin Liffey)