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Russian Finance Chief Warns on Wealth Funds in Austerity Debate

  • Finance minister says reserves already `less than necessary'
  • Slump in oil prices forcing fiscal adjustments in Russia

Russia may exhaust its two sovereign wealth funds in 16 months to two years if it continues to rely on the $144.5 billion reserves without scaling back budget spending, Finance Minister Anton Siluanov warned, laying bare the stark choices facing the government battling its first recession since 2009.

The funds, which amount to 12.9 percent of economic output, are already “considerably less than necessary,” Siluanov told lawmakers debating next year’s budget in Moscow Friday. They are “true salvation” in 2015 and should be in the years to come, he said.