For about 60 years, the Russian economy and that of the rest of the Soviet Union operated on the basis of a centrally planned economy, viz. state control over virtually all means of production and over investment, production, and consumption decisions throughout the economy. Economic policy was made according to directives from the Communist Party, which controlled all aspects of economic activity. The central planning system left a number of legacies with which the Russian economy must deal in its transition to a market economy.
Much of the structure of the Soviet economy that operated until 1987 originated under the leadership of Joseph Stalin, with only incidental modifications made between 1953 and 1987. Five-year plan and annual plans were the chief mechanisms the Soviet government used to translate economic policies into programs. According to those policies, the State Planning Committee (Gosudarstvennyy planovyy komitet—Gosplan) formulated countrywide output targets for stipulated planning periods. Regional planning bodies then refined these targets for economic units such as state industrial enterprises and state farms (sovkhozy; sing., sovkhoz) and collective farms (kolkhozy; sing., kolkhoz), each of which had its own specific output plan. Central planning operated on the assumption that if each unit met or exceeded its plan, then demand and supply would balance.
The government's role was to ensure that the plans were fulfilled. Responsibility for production flowed from the top down. At the national level, some seventy government ministries and state committees, each responsible for a production sector or subsector, supervised the economic production activities of units within their areas of responsibility. Regional ministerial bodies reported to the national-level ministries and controlled economic units in their respective geographical areas.
The plans incorporated output targets for raw materials and intermediate goods as well as final goods and services. In theory, but not in practice, the central planning system ensured a balance among the sectors throughout the economy. Under central planning, the state performed the allocation functions that prices perform in a market system. In the Soviet economy, prices were an accounting mechanism only. The government established prices for all goods and services based on the role of the product in the plan and on other noneconomic criteria. This pricing system produced anomalies. For example, the price of bread, a traditional staple of the Russian diet, was below the cost of the wheat used to produce it. In some cases, farmers fed their livestock bread rather than grain because bread cost less. In another example, rental fees for apartments were set very low to achieve social equity, yet housing was in extremely short supply. Soviet industries obtained raw materials such as oil, natural gas, and coal at prices below world market levels, encouraging waste.
The central planning system allowed Soviet leaders to marshal resources quickly in times of crisis, such as the Nazi invasion, and to reindustrialize the country during the postwar period. The rapid development of its defence and industrial base after the war permitted the Soviet Union to become a superpower.
The record of Russian economic reform through the mid-1990s was mixed. The attempts and failures of reformers during the era of perestroika (restructuring) in the regime of Mikhail Gorbachev (in office 1985-91) attested to the complexity of the challenge. After 1991, under the leadership of Boris Yeltsin, the country made a significant turn toward developing a market economy by implanting basic tenets such as market-determined prices. Critical elements such as privatization of state enterprises and extensive foreign investment were rushed into place in the first few years of the post-Soviet period. But other fundamental parts of the economic infrastructure, such as commercial banking and authoritative, comprehensive commercial laws, were absent or only partly in place by 1996. Although by the mid-1990s a return to Soviet-era central planning seemed unlikely, the configuration of the post-transition economy remained unpredictable.
Although the market now determines most prices, the Government (Russia's cabinet) still fixes prices on some goods and services, such as utilities and energy.
According to official Russian data, in 1994 the national gross domestic product (GDP) was 604 trillion rubles (about US$207 billion according to the 1994 exchange rate), or about 4% of the United States GDP for that year. But this figure underestimates the size of the Russian economy. Adjusted by a purchasing-power parity formula to account for the lower cost of living in Russia, the 1994 Russian GDP was about US$678 billion, making the Russian economy approximately 10% of the United States economy. In 1994 the adjusted Russian GDP was US$4,573 per capita, approximately 19% of that of the United States. A second important measurement factor is the extremely active so-called shadow economy, which yields no taxes or government statistics but which a 1996 government report quantified as accounting for about 51% of the economy and 40% of its cash turnover.
Since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Russia has tried to develop a market economy and achieve consistent economic growth. In October 1991, Yeltsin announced that Russia would proceed with radical, market-oriented reform along the lines of "shock therapy", as recommended by the United States and IMF. However, this policy resulted in economic collapse, with millions being plunged into poverty and corruption and crime spreading rapidly. Hyperinflation resulted from the removal of Soviet price controls and again following the 1998 Russian financial crisis. Assuming the role as the continuing legal personality of the Soviet Union, Russia took up the responsibility for settling the USSR's external debts, even though its population made up just half of the population of the USSR at the time of its dissolution. When once all enterprises belonged to the state and were supposed to be equally owned amongst all citizens, they fell into the hands of a few, who became immensely rich. Stocks of the state-owned enterprises were issued, and these new publicly traded companies were quickly handed to the members of Nomenklatura or known criminal bosses. For example, the director of a factory during the Soviet regime would often become the owner of the same enterprise. During the same period, violent criminal groups often took over state enterprises, clearing the way by assassinations or extortion. Corruption of government officials became an everyday rule of life. Under the government's cover, outrageous financial manipulations were performed that enriched the narrow group of individuals at key positions of the business and government mafia. Many took billions in cash and assets outside of the country in an enormous capital flight.
The largest state enterprises were controversially privatized by President Boris Yeltsin to insiders for far less than they were worth. Many Russians consider these infamous "oligarchs" to be thieves. Through their immense wealth, the oligarchs wielded significant political influence.
The sharp increase in the money supply was influenced by large foreign currency deposits that state-run enterprises and individuals had built up, and by the depreciation of the ruble. Enterprises drew on these deposits to pay wages and other expenses after the Government had tightened restrictions on monetary emissions. Commercial banks monetized enterprise debts by drawing down accounts in foreign banks and drawing on privileged access to accounts in the Central Bank.
The government also failed to constrain its own expenditures in this period, partially under the influence of the post-Soviet Supreme Soviet, which encouraged the Soviet-style financing of favored industries. By the end of 1992, the Russian budget deficit was 20% of GDP, much higher than the 5% projected under the economic program and stipulated under the International Monetary Fund (IMF) conditions for international funding. This budget deficit was financed largely by expanding the money supply. These monetary and fiscal policies were a factor along with price liberalization in an inflation rate of over 2,000% in 1992.
In late 1992, deteriorating economic conditions and a sharp conflict with the parliament led Yeltsin to dismiss neoliberal reform advocate Yegor Gaidar as prime minister. Gaidar's successor was Viktor Chernomyrdin, a former head of the State Natural Gas Company (Gazprom), who was considered less favorable to neoliberal reform.
The printing of money and domestic credit expansion moderated somewhat in 1993. In a public confrontation with the parliament, Yeltsin won a referendum on his economic reform policies that may have given the reformers some political clout to curb state expenditures. In May 1993, the Ministry of Finance and the Central Bank agreed to macroeconomic measures, such as reducing subsidies and increasing revenues, to stabilize the economy. The Central Bank was to raise the discount lending rate to reflect inflation. Based on positive early results from this policy, the IMF extended the first payment of US$1.5 billion to Russia from a special Systemic Transformation Facility (STF) the following July.
Fedorov's anticrisis program and the Government's accord with the Central Bank had some effect. In the first three quarters of 1993, the Central Bank held money expansion to a monthly rate of 19%. It also substantially moderated the expansion of credits during that period. The 1993 annual inflation rate was around 1,000%, a sharp improvement over 1992, but still very high. The improvement figures were exaggerated, however, because state expenditures had been delayed from the last quarter of 1993 to the first quarter of 1994. State enterprise arrears, for example, had built up in 1993 to about 15 trillion rubles (about US$13 billion, according to the mid-1993 exchange rate).
By October 1994, inflation, which had been reduced by tighter fiscal and monetary policies early in 1994, began to soar once again to dangerous levels. On 11 October, a day that became known as Black Tuesday, the value of the ruble on interbank exchange markets plunged by 27%. Although experts presented a number of theories to explain the drop, including the existence of a conspiracy, the loosening of credit and monetary controls clearly was a significant cause of declining confidence in the Russian economy and its currency.
In late 1994, Yeltsin reasserted his commitment to macroeconomic stabilization by firing Viktor Gerashchenko, head of the Central Bank, and nominating Tat'yana Paramonova as his replacement. Although reformers in the Russian government and the IMF and other Western supporters greeted the appointment with skepticism, Paramonova was able to implement a tight monetary policy that ended cheap credits and restrained interest rates (although the money supply fluctuated in 1995). Furthermore, the parliament passed restrictions on the use of monetary policy to finance the state debt, and the Ministry of Finance began to issue government bonds at market rates to finance the deficits.
The government also began to address the interenterprise debt that had been feeding inflation. The 1995 budget draft, which was proposed in September 1994, included a commitment to reducing inflation and the budget deficit to levels acceptable to the IMF, with the aim of qualifying for additional international funding. In this budget proposal, the Chernomyrdin government sent a signal that it no longer would tolerate soft credits and loose budget constraints, and that stabilization must be a top government priority.
In addition, late in 1995 Yeltsin dismissed Anatoly Chubais, one of the last economic reform advocates remaining in a top Government position, as deputy prime minister in charge of economic policy. In place of Chubais, Yeltsin named Vladimir Kadannikov, a former automobile plant manager whose views were antireform. This move raised concerns in Russia and the West about Yeltsin's commitment to economic reform. Another casualty of the political atmosphere was RCB chairman Paramonova, whose nomination had remained a source of controversy between the State Duma and the Government. In November 1995, Yeltsin was forced to replace her with Sergey Dubinin, a Chernomyrdin protégé who continued the tight-money policy that Paramonova had established.
Trends in annual inflation rates mask variations in monthly rates, however. In 1994, for example, the government managed to reduce monthly rates from 21% in January to 4% in August, but rates climbed once again, to 16.4% by December and 18% by January 1995. Instability in Russian monetary policy caused the variations. After tightening the flow of money early in 1994, the Government loosened its restrictions in response to demands for credits by agriculture, industries in the Far North, and some favored large enterprises. In 1995 the pattern was avoided more successfully by maintaining the tight monetary policy adopted early in the year and by passing a relatively stringent budget. Thus, the monthly inflation rate held virtually steady below 5% in the last quarter of the year. For the first half of 1996, the inflation rate was 16.5%. However, experts noted that control of inflation was aided substantially by the failure to pay wages to workers in state enterprises, a policy that kept prices low by depressing demand.(http://www.russiansabroad.com/russian_history_196.html)
In July 1995, the Central Bank announced its intention to maintain the ruble within a band of 4,300 to 4,900 per US$1 through October 1995, but it later extended the period to June 1996. The announcement reflected strengthened fiscal and monetary policies and the buildup of reserves with which the government could defend the ruble. By the end of October 1995, the ruble had stabilized and actually appreciated in inflation-adjusted terms. It remained stable during the first half of 1996. In May 1996, a "crawling band" exchange rate was introduced to allow the ruble to depreciate gradually through the end of 1996, beginning between 5,000 and 5,600 per US $1 and ending between 5,500 and 6,100.
Another sign of currency stabilization was the announcement that effective June 1996, the ruble would become fully convertible on a current-account basis. This meant that Russian citizens and foreigners would be able to convert rubles to other currencies for trade transactions.
But other major sectors such as agriculture, energy, and light industry also suffered from the transition. To enable these sectors to function in a market system, inefficient enterprises had to be closed and workers laid off, with resulting short-term declines in output and consumption. Analysts had expected that Russia's GDP would begin to rise in 1996, but data for the first six months of the year showed a continuing decline, and some Russian experts predicted a new phase of economic crisis in the second half of the year.
The pain of the restructuring has been assuaged somewhat by the emergence of a new private sector. Western experts believe that Russian data overstate the dimensions of Russia's economic collapse by failing to reflect a large portion of the country's private-sector activity. The Russian services sector, especially retail sales, is playing an increasingly vital role in the economy, accounting for nearly half of GDP in 1995. The services sector's activities have not been adequately measured. Data on sector performance are skewed by the underreporting or nonreporting of output that Russia's tax laws encourage. According to Western analysts, by the end of 1995 more than half of GDP and more than 60% of the labor force were based in the private sector.
An important but unconventional service in Russia's economy is "shuttle trading" — the transport and sale of consumer goods by individual entrepreneurs, of whom 5 to 10 million were estimated to be active in 1996. Traders buy goods in foreign countries such as China, Turkey, and the United Arab Emirates and in Russian cities, then sell them on the domestic market where demand is highest. Yevgeniy Yasin, minister of economics, estimated that in 1995 some US$11 billion worth of goods entered Russia in this way. Shuttle traders have been vital in maintaining the standard of living of Russians who cannot afford consumer goods on the conventional market. However, domestic industries such as textiles suffer from this infusion of competing merchandise, whose movement is unmonitored, untaxed, and often mafia -controlled.
The geographical distribution of Russia's wealth has been skewed at least as severely as it was in Soviet times. By the mid-1990s, economic power was being concentrated in Moscow at an even faster rate than the federal government was losing political power in the rest of the country. In Moscow an economic oligarchy, composed of politicians, banks, businesspeople, security forces, and city agencies, controlled a huge percentage of Russia's financial assets under the rule of Moscow's energetic and popular mayor, Yuriy Luzhkov. Unfortunately, organized crime also has played a strong role in the growth of the city. Opposed by a weak police force, Moscow's rate of protection rackets, contract murders, kickbacks, and bribes — all intimately connected with the economic infrastructure — has remained among the highest in Russia. Most businesses have not been able to function without paying for some form of mafia protection, informally called a krysha (the Russian word for roof).
Luzhkov, who has close ties to all legitimate power centers in the city, has overseen the construction of sports stadiums, shopping malls, monuments to Moscow's history, and the ornate Christ the Savior Cathedral. In 1994 Yeltsin gave Luzhkov full control over all state property in Moscow. In the first half of 1996, the city privatized state enterprises at the rate of US$1 billion per year, a faster rate than the entire national privatization process in the same period. Under Luzhkov's leadership, the city government also acquired full or major interests in a wide variety of enterprises — from banking, hotels, and construction to bakeries and beauty salons. Such ownership has allowed Luzhkov's planners to manipulate resources efficiently and with little or no competition. Meanwhile, Moscow also became the center of foreign investment in Russia, often to the exclusion of other regions. For example, the McDonald's fast-food chain, which began operations in Moscow in 1990, enjoyed immediate success but expanded only in Moscow. The concentration of Russia's banking industry in Moscow gave the city a huge advantage in competing for foreign commercial activity.
In mid-1996 the national government appeared to have achieved some degree of macroeconomic stability. However, longer-term stability depends on the ability of policy makers to withstand the inflationary pressures of demands for state subsidies and easier credits for failing enterprises and other special interests. (Chubais estimated that spending promises made during Yeltsin's campaign amounted to US$250 per voter, which if actually spent would approximately double the national budget deficit; most of Yeltsin's pledges seemingly were forgotten shortly after his reelection.)
By 1996 the structure of Russian economic output had shifted far enough that it more closely resembled that of a developed market economy than the distorted Soviet central-planning model. With the decline in demand for defense industry goods, overall production has shifted from heavy industry to consumer production. However, in the mid-1990s the low quality of most domestically produced consumer goods continued to limit enterprises' profits and therefore their ability to modernize production operations. On the other side of the "vicious circle," reliance on an outmoded production system guaranteed that product quality would remain low and uncompetitive.
Most prices are left to the market, although local and regional governments control the prices of some staples. Energy prices remain controlled, but the Government has been shifting these prices upward to close the gap with world market prices.
Russia posted gross domestic product growth of 6.4% in 1999, 10% in 2000, 5.1% in 2001, 4.7% in 2002, 7.3% in 2003, 7.2% in 2004, 6.4% in 2005, 7.4% in 2006 and 8.1% in 2007 with industrial sector posting high growth figures as well. Russia is currently the fastest growing economy in the G8.
The Russian GDP, however, contracted an estimated 40% between 1991 and 1998, despite the country's wealth of natural resources, its well-educated population, and its diverse - although increasingly dilapidated - industrial base.
By the end of 1997, Russia had achieved some progress. Inflation had been brought under control, the ruble was stabilized, and an ambitious privatization program had transferred thousands of enterprises to private ownership. Some important market-oriented laws had also been passed, including a commercial code governing business relations and the establishment of an arbitration court for resolving economic disputes.
But in 1998, the Asian financial crisis swept through the country, contributing to a sharp decline in Russia's earnings from oil exports and resulting in an exodus of foreign investors. Matters came to a head in the financial crisis of August 1998 when the government allowed the ruble to fall precipitously and stopped payment on $40 billion in ruble bonds.
In 1999, output increased for only the second time since 1991, by an officially estimated 3.2%, regaining much of the 4.6% drop of 1998. This increase was achieved despite a year of potential turmoil that included the tenure of three premiers and culminated in the New Year's Eve resignation of President Boris Yeltsin. Of great help was the tripling of international oil prices in the second half of 1999, raising the export surplus to $29 billion.
On the negative side, inflation rose to an average 86% in 1999, compared with a 28% average in 1998 and a hoped-for 30% average in 2000. Ordinary persons found their wages falling by roughly 30% and their pensions by 45%. The Vladimir Putin government has given high priority to supplementing low incomes by paying down wage and pension arrears.
Russia has been experiencing a boom in capital investment since the beginning of 2007. Capital investment showed record growth in June, rising 27.2 percent over June of last year in real terms (adjusted for price changes), to 579.8 billion rubles, with construction industry leading the way. That is a rise of 58 percent in nominal terms and a better showing than in China. Modern Russia has never before seen such a growth rate. The rate of investment in Russia rose 22.3 percent in the first half of 2007 compared to the same period the year before. The increase during that period in 2005 was only 11 percent. The statistics significantly exceed both the conservative prognoses of the Ministry of Economic Development and Trade and less conservative independent analyses. According to Interfax, the consensus among analysts at the end of last month 15.3-percent growth compared to last year.
The Russian economy underwent tremendous stress as it moved from a centrally planned economy to a free market system. Difficulties in implementing fiscal reforms aimed at raising government revenues and a dependence on short-term borrowing to finance budget deficits led to a serious financial crisis in 1998. Lower prices for Russia's major export earners (oil and minerals) and a loss of investor confidence due to the Asian financial crisis exacerbated financial problems. The result was a rapid decline in the value of the ruble, flight of foreign investment, delayed payments on sovereign and private debts, a breakdown of commercial transactions through the banking system, and the threat of runaway inflation.
Russia, however, appears to have weathered the crisis relatively well. As of 2007 real GDP increased by the highest percentage since the fall of the Soviet Union at 8.1%, the ruble remains stable, inflation has been moderate, and investment began to increase again. In 2007 the World Bank declared that the Russian economy had achieved "unprecedented macroeconomic stability". Russia is making progress in meeting its foreign debts obligations. During 2000-01, Russia not only met its external debt services but also made large advance repayments of principal on IMF loans but also built up Central Bank reserves with government budget, trade, and current account surpluses. The FY 2002 Russian Government budget assumes payment of roughly $14 billion in official debt service payments falling due. Large current account surpluses have brought a rapid appreciation of the ruble over the past several years. This has meant that Russia has given back much of the terms-of-trade advantage that it gained when the ruble fell by 60% during the debt crisis. Oil and gas dominate Russian exports, so Russia remains highly dependent upon the price of energy. Loan and deposit rates at or below the inflation rate inhibit the growth of the banking system and make the allocation of capital and risk much less efficient than it would be otherwise.
In 2003, the debt has risen to $19 billion due to higher Ministry of Finance and Eurobond payments. However, $1 billion of this has been prepaid, and some of the private sector debt may already have been repurchased. Russia continues to explore debt swap/exchange opportunities.
In the June 2002 G8 Summit, leaders of the eight nations signed a statement agreeing to explore cancellation of some of Russia's old Soviet debt to use the savings for safeguarding materials in Russia that could be used by terrorists. Under the proposed deal, $10 billion would come from the United States and $10 billion from other G-8 countries over 10 years.
On January 1, 2004, the Stabilization fund of the Russian Federation was established by the Government of Russia as a part of the federal budget to balance it if oil price falls. Now the Stabilization fund of the Russian Federation is being modernized. The Stabilization Fund will be divided into two parts on February 1, 2008. The first part will become a reserve fund equal to 10 percent of GDP (10% of GDP equals to about $200 billion now), and will be invested in a similar way as the The Stabilization Fund. The second part will be turned into the the National Prosperity Fund of Russian Federation. Deputy Finance Minister Sergei Storchak estimates it will reach 600-700 billion rubles by February 1, 2008. The the National Prosperity Fund is to be invested into more risky instruments, including the shares of foreign companies.
Under the Putin administration, Russia's economy saw the nominal Gross Domestic Product (GDP) increase 6 fold, climbing from 22nd to 11th largest in the world. The economy made real gains of an average 7% per year (2000: 10%, 2001: 5.7%, 2002: 4.9%, 2003: 7.3%, 2004: 7.1%, 2005: 6.5%, 2006: 6.7%, 2007: 8.1%), making it the 7th largest economy in the world in purchasing power. In 2007, Russia's GDP exceeded that of 1990, meaning it has overcome the devastating consequences of the 1998 financial crisis and preceding recession in the 1990s.
During Putin's eight years in office, industry grew by 75%, investments increased by 125%, and agricultural production and construction increased as well. Real incomes more than doubled and the average salary increased eightfold from $80 to $640. The volume of consumer credit between 2000–2006 increased 45 times, and during that same time period, the middle class grew from 8 million to 55 million, an increase of 7 times. The number of people living below the poverty line also decreased from 30% in 2000 to 14% in 2008.
Inflation remained a problem however, as the government failed to contain the growth of prices. Between 1999–2007 inflation was kept at the forecast ceiling only twice, and in 2007 the inflation exceeded that of 2006, continuing an upward trend at the beginning of 2008.
The Russian economy is still commodity-driven despite its growth. Payments from the fuel and energy sector in the form of customs duties and taxes accounted for nearly half of the federal budget's revenues. The large majority of Russia's exports are made up by raw materials and fertilizers, although exports as a whole accounted for only 8.7% of the GDP in 2007, compared to 20% in 2000.
There is also a growing gap between rich and poor in Russia. Between 2000–2007 the incomes of the rich grew from approximately 14 times to 17 times larger than the incomes of the poor. The income differentiation ratio shows that the 10% of Russia's rich live increasingly better than the 10% of the poor, amongst whom are mostly pensioners and unskilled workers in depressive regions. (See: Gini Coefficient)
The Russian economy is on much firmer ground now but instead of resting on their laurels the Russian government is determined to make Russia a modern first world economy. After attaining broad macro economic stability and high growth likely to exceed both India and China in 2008 as per the IMF, the focus is now on using the oil windfall to build and modernize infrastructure and create an environment conducive to business, particularly the non commodities exports.
Arms sales have increased to the point where Russia is first in the world in sale of weapons, the IT industry has recorded a record year of growth concentrating on high end niches like algorithm design and microelectronics, while leaving the lesser end work to India and China; Russia is now the world's third biggest destination for outsourcing software behind India and China. The space launch industry is now the world's second largest behind Arian Space of Europe and nuclear power plant companies are going from strength to strength, selling plants to China and India, and recently signed a joint venture with Toshiba to develop cutting edge power plants.
The civilian aerospace industry has also made a comeback with the Sukhoi Superjet, arguably the most advanced regional jet available, as well as the upcoming MS 21 project to compete with Boeing and Airbus. Russia is well on its way to being a developed country within the 2020-2025 timeframe. To sustain this momentum of high growth in high end manufacturing and services the government has pumped large amounts of money in higher education, resulting in the highest number of student enrollment in higher education at any time in history, including at the zenith of the USSR.
With inflation at double-digit rates per month as a result of instantaneous price liberalization, the macroeconomic stabilization program enacted to curb this trend entailed the tightening the money supply and raising interest rates. During the early 1990s the focus on macrostabilization led to interest rates from 20% to 250%. With interest rates so high, "non-insiders" were left largely incapable of borrowing the capital to invest in Russian enterprises, a major factor leaving privatized industries starved of cash. In addition, shock therapy had wiped out the savings of most Russians, leaving ordinary Russians largely incapable of investing in enterprises left up for auction.
Until around 1996-1997, due partly to the lack of competition, many enterprises did not have enough working capital to pay the wages and taxes on time, and traded with one another using barter. Not able to pay wages, upgrading and modernizing their facilities was out of the question.
The high interest rates and shortage of financial capital forced some industries to barter, leading to a new system of distorted prices (barter creates unreal values). By 1998, at least half of enterprise output was being "sold" through barter or trade. The federal government has effectively allowed them to avoid paying much of their federal taxes in return for keeping key customers, such as military bases and major industrial enterprises, supplied with energy and power.
Several devastating blows were dealt to the potential capital market. First the savings of the people in state-owned Sberbank were frozen and effectively destroyed by hyperinflation. Second, a large number of financial pyramids extracted huge amounts of money from unsuspecting public. Third, the government has successfully repeated the scheme with their short-term government obligations, extracting tens of billions of dollars from unsuspecting investors and then defaulting on domestic obligations.
This is a chart of trend of gross domestic product of Russia at market prices estimated by the International Monetary Fund with figures in millions of Russian Rubles.
|Year||Gross Domestic Product||US Dollar exchange|
For purchasing power parity comparisons, the US Dollar is exchanged at 13.63 Rubles only. Average wages in 2007 hover around $42-51 per day.
Russia's GDP, estimated at $1,250 billion at 2007 exchange rates, increased by 8.1% in 2007 compared to 2006. Continued average inflation of approximately 10% and strict government budget led to the growth, while lower oil prices and ruble appreciation slowed it. As of November 2007, unemployment in Russia was at 5.9%, down from 10.4% in 2000. Combined unemployment and underemployment may exceed those figures. Industrial output in 2007 grew by 6.3% compared to 2006, driven by investment growth and private consumption demand.
As of 2005, oil industry and related services account for at least 40 per cent of the gross domestic product of Russia.
As of April 2008, the International Monetary Fund estimates that Russia's gross domestic product (nominal) will grow from its 2007 value of $1,289,582 million to $3,462,998 million by 2013, a 168% increase. Its GDP PPP is estimated to grow from $2,087,815 to $3,330,623 in the same time, which would make it the second largest economy in Europe in terms of purchasing power.
The task of privatizing the Russian economy was of an enormous scale. As described in Blasiet al. (1997), the Russian economy in the late 1980s was dominated by large and medium-sized industrial enterprises that had more than 200 employees. These firms employed about 95 per cent of the industrial workforce and produced 95 per cent of production. Large firms with more than 1000 employees accounted for 75 per cent of employment and production. At the beginning of 1991 the Russian Federation had approximately 24,000 medium-sized and large industrial enterprises and about 170,000 smaller ones – astonishingly few businesses for such a large and diverse economy. Moreover, virtually all these businesses were in the state’s hands. As OECD (1995) explains, measures taken towards the end of the communist period in Russia had allowed a variety of co-operatives and leasehold enterprises to be established, often using the assets and labour force of existing SOEs to set up these new, quasi-private businesses. These measures gave rise to a wave of spontaneous or nomenklatura privatization. This spontaneous privatization took a variety of forms: from nomenklatura-bureaucratic privatization to managerial privatization and employee lease-buyouts.
The last scheme was especially widespread – the USSR law on leasing enacted in 1989 provided employees (worker collectives) with the opportunity to lease state enterprises with the right of buy-out; the enterprises were then re-established as 100% insider-owned closed corporations. Formally, the lease-buyout privatization was stopped in mid-1991 when the law on privatization was passed; however, it de facto continued through 1991 and even 1992. The incidence of the lease-buyout scheme was particularly large in the retail trade and consumer services sectors, in light industry and some others. By February 1992, 9,451 state enterprises accounting for 8 percent of total employment were leased by their workers and managers.
The 1992 mass privatization programme classified enterprises into three categories: (a) small enterprises, to be sold by competitive bidding orlease buy-out; (b) large enterprises, to be converted to joint stock companies first(corporatization), then privatized through the mass privatization programme; and (c) medium enterprises, which could use either method. Some enterprises, such as most public utilities and firms in the defence sector, were exempted from this round of privatization. However, firms in retailing and consumer services, which had already been transferred to municipal ownership in 1991, were required to take part in the small privatization, and mass privatization was required for about 5000 large enterprises and over 15,000 medium-sized ones.
Given the generous entitlements offered to managers and employees in the Russian privatization, these insiders were able to choose from among three options, or privatization methods, at a general meeting of their enterprise:
In addition, employee shareholdings could be increased through so-called EmployeePrivatization Funds (Fond Aktsionirovaniya Rabotnikov Predpriyatiya - FARP). Ordinary shares amounting to 10% of a firm’s charter capital (if an enterprise followed the second option of privatization, the limit was 5%) could be assigned to these funds for subsequent sale to employees on preferential terms. These funds could be created only if the application for privatization was submitted before 1 February 1994. Option 1 was first proposed as the main approach, but it met with strong resistance from managers who, through regional leaders and through their representatives in the Federal Assembly were able to put sufficient pressure on the government to have Option 2 included in the programme (Åslund, 1995). Option 3 was also included due to pressure from the managerial lobby, but in practice the government banned its use at large enterprises and by imposing a “no bankruptcy” condition finally made it rather unattractive for the managers. In all three options, given the rapid inflation in Russia during the relevant period, the prices that insiders were asked to pay for enterprise shares were scarcely more than nominal. In this sense, the mass privatization really was a give-away operation.
As for the mass privatization component, the programme envisaged that not less than 29 percent of shares of each firm would be sold at a voucher auction, though in reality the figure was closer to 20 percent. How people disposed of their vouchers was interesting: about half were invested by employees (and, as a rule, their relatives) in their own enterprises, either through closed subscription or through voucher auctions. A quarter of the vouchers weresold, and the remaining quarter were invested in voucher investment funds. These were closed-end funds that issued their own shares in exchange for vouchers invested by people; they were not obliged to repurchase the issued shares. The number of voucher funds peaked in 1994, amounting to 662. About 25 million people – over 16 percent of citizens – became shareholders in these funds which acquired over 10 percent of the assets of the firms offered for privatization.
The last component of privatization – the competitive sale of shares at investment tenders or cash auctions – typically involved 10 to 20 percent of the shares of enterprises. In an investment tender, which was a competition between investors to buy a block of shares, bidders had to agree to provide the company with additional assistance in the form of capital investments or technology. Similarly, cash auctions also produced capital for enterprises.
Despite periodic delays, the inept administration of the program's more recent phases, and allegations of favoritism and corrupt transactions in the enterprise and financial structures, in 1996 international experts judged Russia's privatization effort a qualified success. The movement of capital assets from state to private hands has progressed without serious reversal of direction — despite periodic calls for reestablishing state control of certain assets. And the process has contributed to the creation of a new class of private entrepreneur.
In hindsight, prominent Sovietologist Marshall Goldman has argued that Yeltsin should have extended property ownership to land, facilitated the formation of new companies, reformed the currency, liberalized prices, scrapped taxes on wages, brought fiscal policy under control, and moved toward convertibility of the ruble before implementing the process of privatization.
Marshall Goldman, Joseph Stiglitz (the winner of the 2001 Nobel Prize in economics), and other critics of Russia's implementation of privatization generally argue that "insider buyout," which allowed state managers to usually wound up with the controlling share of the stock, further accounted for Russia's poor implementation of economic restructuring.
The "insider buyout" supposedly induced 'employee dominant ownership', inevitably leading to the tendency for the stockholders, who are managers or employees themselves, to vote for increased wages, reduced investments, and fewer layoffs, which all disfavor the growth of market economy.
In Russia a far higher share of state-owned assets were sold to managers and workers, or "insiders," compared to the former Czechoslovakia, Hungary, and Poland. In this sense, it is more precise to describe Russia's privatization as "insider privatization" (the first stage) and "oligarch privatization", and thus distinct from the general pattern of privatization in other, more successful countries in Eastern Europe.
Many have therefore argued that it would be more accurate to say that real economic reform was never tried, given that it was quickly subverted by actors outside the government's control, such as the Central Bank, ministries, regional governments, and industrial managers.
Aside from the distortions associated with the lack of competition, employee ownership in general keeps wages and employment at levels that were too high. The impact of "insider buyout" in Russia can be seen from the abnormally low unemployment rates and very high underemployment levels in privatized industries. Generally speaking, large-scale privatization of moribund, money-losing state owned enterprises should increase unemployment. Some Soviet industries, after all, were not even value adding, with cost of inputs exceeding the cost of outputs (though it must be noted that in a planned economy this can sometimes be reasonable). Sixteen percent of the workforce became unemployed in both the former East Germany and Poland.
As a point in comparison, even in Communist China, where organized, large-scale privatization has not been carried out, the unemployment rate in 1998 was conservatively counted at 8 to 9%. But in Russia, in the most radical stage of privatization, 1994, only 6.3% of the economically active population was unemployed (a far larger share of the population is underemployed).
According to major surveys of Russian enterprise directions about whether they would be willing to sell a majority of the shares of their enterprise to an outside investor who would bring in the capital needed to invest in modernizing the firm, two-thirds said they would not be willing. In other words, they would rather remain majority owners of an unprofitable enterprise than minority owners of a much more profitable one. Very few firms have experienced much management turnover.
According to Stiglitz, the key economic mistakes of the transition were the emphasis on privatization over competition and the emphasis on restructuring existing enterprises over creation of new jobs and enterprises. With emphasis on just transferring ownership to private hands in order to create a lobby for private enterprise in order to prevent a communist comeback and push for creation of institutions to govern the market instead of competition, price controls were lifted without dismantling key Soviet-era monopolies. Prices thus were not able to properly equilibrate according to levels dictated by supply and demand since private profit-seeking monopolies lacked the incentives provided by competition to lower prices.
The mineral-packed Ural Mountains and the vast oil, gas, coal, and timber reserves of Siberia and the Russian Far East make Russia rich in natural resources. However, most such resources are located in remote and climatically unfavorable areas that are difficult to develop and far from Russian ports. Oil and gas exports continue to be the main source of hard currency. Russia is a leading producer and exporter of minerals, gold, and all major fuels. The Russian fishing industry is the world's fourth-largest, behind Japan, the United States, and China. Natural resources, especially energy, dominate Russian exports. Ninety percent of Russian exports to the United States are minerals or other raw materials.
Expecting the area to become more accessible as climate change melts Arctic ice, and believing the area contains large reserves of untapped oil and natural gas, on August 2, 2007, Russian explorers, in submersibles, planted the Russian flag on the Arctic seabed, staking a claim to energy sources right up to the North Pole. Reaction to the event was mixed: President Vladimir Putin congratulated the explorers for "the outstanding scientific project", while Canadian officials stated the expedition was just a public show.
Under the Federal Law "On Continental Shelf Development" upon proposal from the federal agency managing the state fund of mineral resources or its territorial offices the Russian government approves the list of some sections of the mineral resources that are passed for development without any contests and auctions, some sections of federal importance of the Russian continental shelf, some sections of the mineral resources of federal importance that are situated in Russia and stretch out on its continental shelf, some gas deposits of federal importance that are handed over for prospecting and developing the mineral resources under a joint license. The Russian government is also empowered to decide on the handover of the foresaid sections of the mineral resources for development without any contests and auctions.
In 2006, there were more than 300 BWA operator networks, accounting for 5% of market share, with dial-up accounting for 30%, and Broadband Fixed Access accounting for the remaining 65%. In December 2006, Tom Phillips, chief government and regulatory affairs officer of the GSM Association stated:
While there is a lot of interest in a national broadband network, as of January 2007 there still wasn't one.
In 1999, exports were up slightly, while imports slumped by 30.5%. As a consequence, the trade surplus ballooned to $33.2 billion, more than double the previous year's level. In 2001, the trend shifted, as exports declined while imports increased. World prices continue to have a major effect on export performance, since commodities, particularly oil, natural gas, metals, and timber comprise 80% of Russian exports. Ferrous metals exports suffered the most in 2001, declining 7.5%. On the import side, steel and grains dropped by 11% and 61%, respectively.
Most analysts predicted that these trade trends would continue to some extent in 2002. In the first quarter of 2002, import expenditures were up 12%, increased by goods and a rapid rise of travel expenditure. The combination of import duties, a 20% value-added tax and excise taxes on imported goods (especially automobiles, alcoholic beverages, and aircraft) and an import licensing regime for alcohol still restrain demand for imports. Frequent and unpredictable changes in customs regulations also have created problems for foreign and domestic traders and investors. In March 2002, Russia placed a ban on poultry from the United States. In the first quarter of 2002, exports were down 10% as falling income from goods exports was partly compensated for by rising services exports, a trend since 2000. The trade surplus decreased to $7 billion from well over $11 billion the same period last year.
Foreign trade rose 34% to $151.5 billion in the first half of 2005, mainly due to the increase in oil and gas prices which now form 64% of all exports by value. Trade with CIS countries is up 13.2% to $23.3 billion. Trade with the EU forms 52.9%, with the CIS 15.4%, Eurasian Economic Community 7.8% and Asia-Pacific Economic Community 15.9%
Trade volume between China and Russia reached $29.1 billion in 2005, an increase of 37.1% compared with 2004. China’s export of machinery and electronic goods to Russia grew 70%, which is 24% of China’s total export to Russia in the first 11 months of 2005. During the same time, China’s export of high-tech products to Russia increased by 58%, and that is 7% of China’s total exports to Russia. Also in this time period border trade between the two countries reached $5.13 billion, growing 35% and accounting for nearly 20% of the total trade. Most of China’s exports to Russia remain apparel and footwear.
Russia is China’s eighth largest trade partner and China is now Russia’s fourth largest trade partner.
China now has over 750 investment projects in Russia, involving $1.05 billion. China’s contracted investment in Russia totaled $368 million during January-September 2005, twice that in 2004.
Chinese imports from Russia are mainly those of energy sources, such as crude oil, which is mostly transported by rail, and electricity exports from neighboring Siberian and Far Eastern regions. In the near future, exports of both of these commodities are set to increase, as Russia is building the Eastern Siberia – Pacific Ocean oil pipeline with a branch to Chinese border, and Russian power grid monopoly UES is building some of its hydropower stations with a view of future exports to China.
The IT market is one of the most dynamic sectors of the Russian economy. Russian software exports have risen from just $120 million in 2000 to $1.5 billion in 2006. Since the year 2000 the IT market has demonstrated growth rates of 30-40 percent a year, growing by 54% in 2006 alone. The biggest sector in terms of revenue is system and network integration, which accounts for 28.3% of the total market revenues Meanwhile the fastest growing segment of the IT market is offshore programming. The industry of software development outsourcing crossed the mark of $1 billion of total revenues in 2005 and reached $1.8 billion in 2006 Market analysts predict this indicator to increase tenfold by 2010 Currently Russia controls 3 percent of the offshore software development market and is the third leading country (after India and China) among software exporters. Such growth of software outsourcing in Russia is caused by a number of factors. One of them is the supporting role of the Russian Government. The Government has launched a program promoting construction of IT-oriented technology parks (Technoparks) - special zones that have an established infrastructure and enjoy a favorable tax and customs regime, in seven different places around the country: Moscow, Novosibirsk, Nizhny Novgorod, Kaluga, Tumen, Republic of Tatarstan and St. Peterburg Regions. Another factor stimulating the IT sector growth in Russia is the presence of global technology corporations such as Intel, Motorola, Sun Microsystems, Boeing, Nortel and others, which have intensified their software development activities and opened their R&D centers in Russia.
In its push to diversify Russia's research and development in emerging technologies, The Putin government has announced a massive $7 billion investment program in nanotechnology. As part of the program, during 2007, $5 billion is being invested into a new state corporation, Rosnanotech, that will be responsible for overseeing and coordinating research in the area.
In criticism of the initiative, it has been noted that the Russian nanotech program will receive three times more state funding than the rest of Russia's scientists put together.
Apart from public funding, Mikhail Prokhorov, a leading Russian metals and banking tycoon, has announced the creation of a $17 billion holding company that will focus on high-tech investments, including alternative energy and nanotechnology.
In 1999, investment increased by 4.5%, the first such growth since 1990. Investment growth has continued at high rates from a very low base, with an almost 30% increase in total foreign investments in 2001 compared to the previous year. Higher retained earnings, increased cash transactions, the positive outlook for sales, and political stability have contributed to these favorable trends. Foreign investment in Russia is very low. Cumulative investment from U.S. sources of about $4 billion are about the same as U.S. investment in Costa Rica. Over the medium-to-long term, Russian companies that do not invest to increase their competitiveness will find it harder either to expand exports or protect their recent domestic market gains from higher quality imports.
Foreign direct investment, which includes contributions to starting capital and credits extended by foreign co-owners of enterprises, rose slightly in 1999 and 2000, but decreased in 2001 by about 10%. Foreign portfolio investment, which includes shares and securities, decreased dramatically in 1999, but has experienced significant growth since then. In 2001, foreign portfolio investment was $451 million, more than twice the amount from the previous year. Inward foreign investment during the 1990s was dwarfed by Russian capital flight, estimated at about $15 billion annually. During the years of recovery following the 1998 debt crisis, capital flight seems to have slowed. Inward investment from Cyprus and Gibraltar, two important channels for capital flight from Russia in recent years, suggest that some Russian money is returning home.
A significant drawback for investment is the banking sector, which lacks the resources, the capability, and the trust of the population that it would need to attract substantial savings and direct it toward productive investments. Russia's banks contribute only about 3% of overall investment in Russia. While ruble lending has increased since the August 1998 financial crisis, loans are still only 40% of total bank assets. The Central Bank of Russia reduced its refinancing rate five times in 2000, from 55% to 25%, signaling its interest in lower lending rates. Interest on deposits and loans are often below the inflation rate. The poorly developed banking system makes it difficult for entrepreneurs to raise capital and to diversify risk. Banks still perceive commercial lending as risky, and some banks are inexperienced with assessing credit risk.
Money on deposit with Russian banks represents only 7% of GDP. Sberbank receives preferential treatment from the state and holds 73% of all bank deposits. It also is the only Russian bank that has a federal deposit insurance guarantee. In March 2002, Sergei Ignatiev replaced Viktor Gerashchenko as Chairman of the Russian Central Bank. Under his leadership, necessary banking reforms, including stricter accounting procedures and federal deposit insurance, are likely to be implemented.
Russia's Virtual Economy: http://www.brookings.edu/articles/2008/02_virtual_economy_gaddy.aspx
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