BRIEFS

BRIEFS

CAMDESSUS: IMF WORRIED

OVER INDIA'S PUBLIC DEBTWASHINGTON - The International Monetary Fund is worried over the sheer magnitude of India's public-sector debt, IMF Managing Director Michel Camdessus said.

While the IMF is delighted India has escaped contagion from Asia's financial crisis, it is concerned by the large role of the public sector in the economy there, Mr. Camdessus said at a press conference Tuesday.

''We believe India should grow more rapidly, but it is not by slowing the opening of the economy that one increases long-term growth. Quite the contrary,'' he said.

India should concentrate on privatization of state enterprises and efforts to strengthen its financial system to pave the way for a more liberal economy, Mr. Camdessus said.

JAPAN'S PRIME MINISTER

PREPARES FOR RUSSIAN VISIT

MOSCOW - Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto of Japan is scheduled to pay an official visit to Russia in September-October, a source in Russia's Foreign Ministry said.

The exact date of the visit will be determined during an unofficial meeting between President Boris Yeltsin and Mr. Hashimoto April 18-19 in Japan, the official said.

The official said the Russian prime minister should pay a visit to Japan prior to Mr. Hashimoto's visit to Russia. Before the sacking of the former government, ex-Prime Minister Victor Chernomyrdin was scheduled to visit Japan in June.

IMF LESS OPTIMISTIC

ON SWISS ECONOMY

ZURICH - The International Monetary Fund is less optimistic about the Swiss economy than it was last October, revising its gross domestic product growth forecast for 1998 to 1.7 percent, from the 2 percent forecast in October.

For 1999, the IMF expects economic growth of 2 percent, according to the Basler Zeitung daily.

The IMF believes the Swiss National Bank should therefore continue a generous monetary policy ''for quite some time longer,'' the paper said.

In terms of GDP growth, Switzerland is thus far behind some 28 countries, classified as highly developed by the IMF, which are expected to achieve GDP growth of at least 2.3 percent this year, according to the paper.

But Switzerland seems to be the world leader in terms of inflation, or the lack of it, with only 0.4 percent annual inflation seen in 1998, the paper said.

JAPAN'S LEAD IMPORTS

VICTIM OF SLOW DEMAND

TOKYO - Japan's lead imports continue to decline due to an increase in storage battery imports and secondary lead output, as well as sluggish demand from the car sector, Japanese traders said.

This has also left Japan's duty-free lead import under the Generalized System of Preference for fiscal 1999 still continuing, totaling 10,131 metric tons as of April 9, as it has not yet exceeded the year's quota of 10,300 metric tons, according to the Ministry of Finance.

The Japanese traders said a continued slump in the country's car industry is hurting domestic lead demand, leading some trading firms to become more hesitant in importing lead.

PHILIPPINES SEEKS TRADE

EXTENSION WITH THE US

MANILA - The Philippines is seeking a multiyear extension of its trading privileges with the United States, similar to a 10-year extension being offered to African nations, the trade department said.

Philippine Trade Secretary Cesar Bautista has asked the office of the U.S. Trade Representative to press for congressional renewal of the Generalized System of Preferences privileges before the current one expires June 30, a department statement said.

It said that during Philippine President Fidel Ramos's visit to the United States last week, Mr. Bautista met with U.S. Trade Representative Charlene Barshefsky and sought her help in getting a multiyear extension of GSP benefits for Manila.

AMERICAS SUMMIT SEEN

CREATING TRADE FRAMEWORK

SANTIAGO, Chile - Chilean President Eduardo Frei, preparing to host the Summit of the Americas this weekend, said Tuesday that the gathering of 34 heads of state will lay the foundation for the world's largest free-trade organization and zone.

''We hope to agree to the form and format to start negotiations for the Free Trade Area of the Americas from June,'' Mr. Frei told foreign correspondents in the presidential palace La Moneda.

''It is a vital piece to move forward toward free trade which at the same time is a prerequisite for growth in our economies,'' Mr. Frei added.