February 4, 2020 / 2:30 PM / 13 days ago

Russian govt pulled $25 bln from banks in Dec as Putin revives stimulus plan

MOSCOW, Feb 4 (Reuters) - The finance ministry withdrew 1.6 trillion roubles ($25 billion) from Russia’s two top banks in December, as state spending under a stimulus programme ordered by President Vladimir Putin picked up, data showed on Tuesday.

In May 2018 shortly after his re-election, Putin announced a $400 billion spending plan for sectors including infrastructure, housing and health, and designed to lift the economy into the world’s top five by 2024.

But the project became snarled up in red tape, and last month Putin appointed a new government and prime minister with a brief to focus on delivering strategic goals.

Sberbank, Russia’s top bank, and second-ranked VTB respectively saw 868 billion roubles and 684 billion roubles of outflows of finance ministry funds in December, double of the same period of 2018, the banks’ reports showed.

At the same time, budget spending rose to 3.3 trillion roubles from 1.4 trillion in November, according to finance ministry’s data.

In January Raiffeisenbank, after analysing central bank data, highlighted a similar fall in ministry funds deposited with the banks, saying the need to speed up strategic spending was the most likely reason.

VTB told Reuters that December’s outflow was of a “traditional” nature ahead of the year-end. The treasury, which manages the finance ministry’s funds, the ministry itself, the central bank and Sberbank did not reply to requests for comment. ($1 = 63.3875 roubles) (Reporting by Tatiana Voronova Additional reporting by Elena Fabrichnaya and Darya Korsunskaya Writing by Katya Golubkova; editing by John Stonestreet)

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