MOSCOW, March 27 (RIA Novosti) - Russia will support banks and businesses with large external debts in the event of a financial crisis by dipping into an $88 billion emergency sovereign wealth fund, Finance Minister Anton Siluanov told the Prime news agency Thursday.
"The National Wealth Fund is an emergency resource that can be used in the case of a crisis to help banks and big companies that have large obligations to external creditors," Siluanov said at the Moscow stock exchange, adding that he so far saw no grounds for such a move.
Economic Development Minister Alexei Ulyukayev said Russian authorities may take a number of steps to increase the capitalization of the country's banking system if the economic situation worsens due to Western sanctions over Moscow's position on the reunification of Crimea with Russia.
"In particular, we are discussing the possibility of helping banks redirect funds, which would have been paid to the owners in a normal situation, including to the state as a major stakeholder, to supplement their capital," Ulyukayev said.
Ulyukayev outlined a worst-case scenario in which capital outflow from Russia could reach $100 billion, annual investment in the country could drop 1.3 percent and Russian GDP growth could slow to 0.6 percent.
In January, the ministry said GDP growth this year would be about 2.5 percent.
Elvira Nabiullina, the head of Russia's central bank, added the bank is ready to use all measures to support liquidity in the banking sector, but sees no need to do so yet. She added there are no plans to introduce limitations on currency trading in conditions of a liquidity deficit.
"Limits were introduced on currency swaps during the 2008-2009 [financial] crisis and market participants are probably worried that we may do this again now...We believe that in the conditions of a market deficit, this tool would hold and manage percentage rates so that they remained within the trading corridor," Naibullina said.
Nabiullina also called for the development of a domestic card system to reduce dependence on Visa and Mastercard after US sanctions led to disruptions in their services, but said Moscow has no plans to abandon the US-based payment networks.
Last week, Visa and MasterCard halted payment transactions for clients of several Russian banks, including Bank Rossiya. Russian President Vladimir Putin mocked the move, saying he would open an account and have his salary deposited at the sanctioned bank.
The leader of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov, joined him. "The decision to introduce sanctions against the bank shows that it is reliable, since the US does not like it," he said.