Prime Minister Amangeldy Muraliev says the country is close to default on its foreign debts, which total about $1.5 billion, some 150 percent of gross domestic product. Servicing the debt accounts for 40 percent of central government expenditures. The country’s sorry financial condition follows the contraction of export markets after the collapse of the Russian ruble in August, 1998. The debt crisis has forced parliament to adopt an austerity budget that projects no deficit for 2000 and provides for a sell-off of state holdings in the energy and telecommunications monopolies. It has also led the government into negotiations with its creditors to reschedule debt payments. Negotiations with Russia have already been completed.