, announced that Russia’s economy would grow by at least 7 percent in the year 2000. Putin’s optimistic economic forecast was in line with one the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development delivered just about the same time. In its annual report, the EBRD predicted that Russia’s gross domestic product would grow 6.5 percent this year, up from 3.2 percent in 1999, and that direct foreign investment in Russia would reach $2 billion this year, up from $746 million last year. However, unlike Putin, the EBRD suggested that much of Russia’s economic success was due to high world oil prices and the 1998 ruble devaluation, and warned the Russian government that it had to prove its commitment to reform in order “shore up confidence and build support for a broad-based improvement in the investment climate before the beneficial impact of high commodity prices and the ruble devaluation wears out.” Indeed, the need for structural economic reform in Russia was underscored earlier in the month, with the release of the Washington-based Heritage Foundation’s annual index of economic freedom. Russia came in 127th out of the 155 countries ranked–less free than Rwanda, Ethiopia, Kyrgyzstan and Romania, tied with the Republic of Congo and Mauritania, and more free than Kazakhstan, Togo, Bangladesh and India. The authors of a report that accompanied the index wrote that the Russian economy remains encumbered by high government spending, protectionism and bureaucratic regulation, along with concomitant back market activity and corruption.