MOSCOW, March 23 The Russian rouble is "somewhat
overvalued", a senior member of the economy ministry said on
Thursday, in the latest verbal intervention by a Russian
official against the currency.
The free-floating rouble has firmed 6.5 percent so far this
year to 57.6 against the dollar, posing a problem
for the Russian government, whose budget revenues from oil
exports shrink when the rouble strengthens.
Speaking in the upper house of parliament, the head of
macroeconomic analysis and forecasts at the economy ministry,
Polina Bagdasen, said the rouble's recent recovery was driven by
Demand for emerging market assets and seasonally favourable
balance of payments have pushed the rouble up, Bagdasen said.
Earlier this month, Bagdasen's boss, Economy Minister Maxim
Oreshkin, said the rouble was stronger than its fundamentally
Finance Minister Anton Siluanov also said this month that
the rouble was overvalued by up to 12 percent, putting
short-lived downside pressure on the currency's exchange rate.
Siluanov's words contrast with those of the central bank,
which claims it has no specific target rate for the rouble, as
it is driven solely by market factors.
While the stronger rouble deprives the finance ministry of
extra revenues for the budget, it helps annual inflation slow
towards the central bank's target of 4 percent by the end of the
Bagdasen said the stronger rouble also helps Russian
companies increase capital investment and modernise their
equipment and production, which should boost the competitiveness
of Russian firms in the middle and long term.
After firming by 20 percent versus the dollar in 2016, the
rouble is still much weaker than it was before Moscow's
annexation of Crimea in 2014 and a rapid drop in oil prices.
(Reporting by Elena Fabrichnaya; Writing by Andrey Ostroukh;
Editing by Toby Davis)