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No Quick Fix for Russian Economy (Op-Ed)

Vladislav Inozemtsev

This year got off to a bad start. Oil prices fell to below $30 per tub and a bill necessity of at slightest 5 percent seemed inevitable. But now Russia’s domestic chosen is respirating a sigh of relief. Oil is adult to more than $40 per tub and experts are presaging that prices are some-more approaching to continue climbing than to collapse, as they did in winter.

Of course, oil cost trends can't be foresee with any certainty. But financial officials recently settled that if oil stays between $40 and $50 per barrel, the economy will enter a “new reality.” What does that mean?

It refers to a march toward assuage belt-tightening — aloft taxes and stricter collection of them, as good as tying imports by protectionist measures. Government promotion contingency be stepped adult to convince the Russian people that shaping foreigners are the cause of their problems, not their leaders’ unsuccessful mercantile policy.

This is simply “milking the economy.” Oil and gas revenues will fall. They totaled 7.43 trillion rubles in 2014, forsaken to 5.86 trillion rubles in 2015 and could tumble to 4.5 trillion rubles in 2016. Therefore, authorities will have to cut devise investment, revoke appropriation to the regions and scale behind financial incentives for state employees.

That will lead to further decrease in an economy kept afloat by government investment and purchases. Import volumes have forsaken to half of their 2014 level, that means a decline in VAT revenues from the sale of those goods.

The additional vigour that places on business, joined with the reduction in state orders and the timorous incomes of government employees will lead to production declines. The authorities will use Central Bank emissions and quasi-emissions to limit spending from the government’s haven fund, though that will not hindrance the recession. The 1.4 percent dump in gross domestic product during the first entertain of 2016 will usually fuel serve declines.

Economic liberation is doubtful in 2017; in fact, we design Russia will see no mercantile expansion even if oil prices arise to as most as $65-$70 per barrel.

Even if leaders conduct to avoid slicing salaries for state employees and save income by eliminating the most invalid expenditures, a general race fearful by the predicament and burdened by high seductiveness rates is doubtful to increase personal spending. Higher oil prices will strengthen the ruble. That will outcome in lower boost for major tender materials corporations, so shortening ruble revenues to the sovereign budget. Most businesspeople will continue to expect serve recession and will be doubtful to invest in new projects.

Brent Oil Price (U.S. Dollars per Barrel)

If oil prices rise, authorities will readopt their 2010 attitude. At that time, they approaching an imminent finish to the predicament and immediately gave adult on liberalizing business conditions or implementing mercantile constructional reforms. Russia would enter a period of classic stagnation, noted by a miss of incentive for change.

This leads to a elementary and rather desperate conclusion: Russia is trapped by its coherence on commodity markets.

Russia has no picturesque devise for modernization, quite given the siege and lack of potential mercantile partners. Regardless of how oil prices and the ruble finally strech equilibrium, no qualitative change will result.

There are usually dual scenarios by which Russia could see renewed mercantile expansion in the entrance years.

The first requires invariably rising oil prices, as they formerly did via President Vladimir Putin’s terms in office.

However, information from the past decades indicates that oil prices contingency arise by 15-20 percent annually for economic expansion to resume (all things being equal). In practical terms, that means oil prices contingency strech approximately $80 per tub by 2018 and no reduction than $110 per tub by 2020.

Such a scenario competence yield mercantile expansion of 2-4 percent per annum and return the Russian economy to 2008 levels by 2019-2020. However, that unfolding is unlikely — the current cost fight and the pointy boost in supply from new forms of energy such as shale oil and biofuels could effectively top prices at $60 per barrel.

There is a second option. Rather than implementing the necessary constructional reforms, leaders could make it easier to do business in Russia by reinstating comparatively giveaway trade, returning a significant volume of land in central Russia to the marketplace, waiving taxes for new businesses, formulating manly guarantees for foreign investment and launching mechanisms for stimulating demand.

The government could take the position that the creation of jobs and economic expansion are temporarily some-more critical than collecting taxes, and that it is improved to let people acquire income on their possess than to put them on the supervision payroll. That would not need any radical domestic changes, though even that step stays unfeasible as prolonged as Russia’s business and government officials are so closely interconnected. Thus, this second unfolding stays unlikely.

Therefore, even if oil prices turn comparatively high again, the new existence for Russia means entrance to an roughly unshakable nearby 0 balance in all areas: economic, amicable and political. Judging by the recognition of the statute regime and its miss of accountability before the public, such a situation could final years — until the dilapidated post-Soviet economy finally produces vital technological disasters or becomes deeply dysfunctional. But it will take another 3-5 years before that occurs. 

Vladislav Inozemtsev is Director of the Center for Post-Industrial Studies and Berthold Beitz Fellow with the German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP).

Article source: http://www.themoscowtimes.com/article/569837.html