Russia's non-oil budget deficit needs to be cut, Putin tells newspaper

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MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia's economy has been hit hard by a plunge in the oil price, but this will have a positive effect in that it will force the country to improve its public finances, President Vladimir Putin said in an interview published on Monday in German newspaper Bild. Russia, he said, needed to reduce its non-oil and gas deficit, which shows the gap between revenues and expenditures once revenues from oil and gas are excluded. "I believe that our non-oil and gas deficit has risen to a very dangerous level. So now we are forced to lower it. And this is healthy," he is quoted as saying in the wide-ranging interview. "It is very difficult ... to resist spending oil and gas revenues to cover current expenses. (But) it is the reduction of these expenses that improves the economy." (Reporting by Dmitry Solovyov; Editing by Jason Bush, Greg Mahlich)

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