Since the financial crisis in 1998, Russia has been experiencing impressive economic growth due to the collaboration of monetary and fiscal policies that stabilized the performance of major economic indicators up to this day. Many economists regard the impressive performance of Russia as part increase of the volume of investment in the said country.
On the other hand, some says that the notable growth of Russia should be attributed to the increase of oil prices in the international market (Traveldocs.com 2008: 1). Despite of the various claims on what really was the foundation of Russia’s economic stability for the past nine years, it would be better to examine first what are the performances of some major economic indicators like GDP Growth, Balance of Trade, Inflation Rate, Unemployment Rate and Interest Rate of the said country for the past four years.
GDP Growth Rate
In 2004, Russia experienced 7.76 percent growth on their GDP from 1.4 billion USD of 2003 to approximately 1.5 billion USD of 2004 (Alcarastore.com 2008: 1). This increase in the GDP growth rate was triggered by the improvement of consumer demand from 2003 to 2004. On the other hand, by the end of 2005, Russia experienced sluggish improvement on the growth of GDP from 7.76 to 6.93 percent primarily due to the instability happened on the investment component of the economy caused by unclear limit and conditions non foreign investment, obsolete infrastructure as well as delayed economic reforms of the government.
But in general sense, the GDP of Russia still increased by around 150 million USD. By 2006, Russia once again performed robust increase on their GDP growth rate from 6.93 to 7.8 percent as the economy starts to recover from the adverse effects of unstable investment climate caused by delayed fiscal policies. Last 2007, the Russian GDP already reached its 2 billion USD level which caused their GDP growth rate to achieved 8.3 percent growth level as the investors and consumption continues to improve in the domestic market of Russia.
Another major economic indicator of Russia’s economic performance would be the Trade Balance. For the past four years, the trade balance of Russia has been performing remarkable as this economic indicator continues to increase from 2004 to 2007 due to the strong consumer demand and fixed capital formation growth of the Russian economy. In 2004, the trade balance of Russia reached around 85.8 billion USD as the consequence of the increase of their non-oil exports by the end of 2003.
The improvement of non-oil exports of Russia continued to positively influence the trade balance of the said country for the succeeding years like in 2005, the trade balance increased by 23 billion USD while it increased by 22 billion in 2006 (The Federal State Statistics Office Service 2007: 1). Though there was a slight growth in the trade balance of Russia during 2007 due to the significant excess of growth rates of import above the growth rates of exports. Nonetheless, the Russian economists is still optimistic regarding the performance of the trade balance of the Russian economy this year as their monetary and fiscal policies starts to combat the said issue on trade balance.
Prices of goods in Russia has been experiencing sluggish growth rate since 2003 as the result of the fiscal policies of the Russian government despite of the fact that they also have to lower down their unemployment rate. Theoretically, if unemployment rate decreases, inflation is being expected to increase based from the Philips Curve, but with the fiscal policies of the Russian government such as the bilateral market access agreement with the United States as a prelude to their possible entry to WTO, prices of domestic goods starts to decrease thereby creating a force for the inflation rate to decline since 2003 (Indexmundi.com 2007a: 1).
In 2004, the inflation rate was equivalent to 13.7 percent while it reached 11.5 percent in 2005 (Indexmundi.com 2007c: 1). Though it increased again to 12.7 percent in 2006, inflation rate still managed to continue its good performance in 2007 by reaching 9.8 percent as the policies on regional monopolies and trade regulation of the Russian government starts to work on their economic system to stabilize the domestic prices of goods and services (Russiatoday.ru 2007: 1).
As the number of job opportunities in Russia continues to increase for the past years plus the effort of the Russian government to attract more foreign investors to their economy, unemployment rate starts to decline since 2004 with 8.5 percent unemployment rate. By the start of 2005, the Russian government already felt the positive impact of their rigorous action to provide more job opportunities to the Russian labor pool which resulted to the further deterioration of unemployment rate from 8.5 percent of 2004 to 8.3 percent of 2005 and then from 7.6 percent in 2006 to 6.6 percent of 2007 (Indexmundi.com 2007b: 1).
This only means that the Russian government has been successful for the past four years in combating the unemployment rate of their country which could further contribute to their impressive economic growth in the next coming years.
One of the most concerns of foreign investors, interest rate on borrowing in Russia exhibits good investment condition as it continues to decreases annually due to the stable financial sector of Russia for the past years after the financial crisis in 1998. The loan rate or the interest rate on borrowing on Russia in 2004 was equal to 11.4 percent and decreased to 10.7 percent by 2005 as the Russian government started to implement economic reforms on their financial institutions in order to make their economy more attractive to foreign investors.
As a result, with the stable financial sector and fiscal policies to attract more foreign investors, interest rate on borrowing continues to decline from 10.4 percent in 2006 to 10 percent in 2007 with accordance to Ordinance No. 1660 dated in February 17, 2006 (The Central Bank of the Russian Federation 2005: 1).
Economic Strengths and Weaknesses
Based from the given performance of Russia’s major economic indicators, it is clear that the business environment in Russia is very much attractive and provides a better outlook in the next couple of years. Like for instance, the impressive growth of their GDP, it only signifies how active is the domestic consumption and investment level in the Russian economy and gives the investors a bird’s eye view of the possible return to investment that the Russian economy could give to them.
Moreover, despite of the fact that there were some periods wherein the Russian economy performs badly, but the point is, with the proper action of the Russian government, almost all of the economic problems was resolved and put the market back into its equilibrium condition.
Another example of the strengths of the Russian economy would be the cheap borrowing in Russia as their interest rate on borrowing continues to declines for the past years in order to attract more foreign investors to their economy. This would provide further improvements on the investment sector of the Russian economy plus the possibility of increase in the number of job opportunities for the Russian labor pool.
As a result, economic activity in Russia is expected to boost alongside with the improvement in the investment and labor sector of the economy. Most of the time, investors prefer countries that can offer cheaper loans in order to finance their business expansion especially those multinational companies that aggressively finds more countries which could give them competitive advantage either in a form of cheaper labor, loans, technologies, favorable government subsidies and other factors of production to name a few.
Furthermore, the effort of the Russian government to become less dependent on their oil exports in order to attain impressive economic growth by increasing the volume of their non-oil exports goods and services. This would provide an avenue towards the attainment of sustainable growth on their trade balance.
The fact that the Russian oil exports already provides large chunk on the total GDP of the country plus the improvement on the volume of their non-oil exports reflects the increasing trend of their trade balance for the past years. Maybe this is one of the results of attracting more foreign investors in Russia which establishes manufacturing plants in Russia and then export the finished products to the international markets.
The last but not the least strength of the Russian economy would be the increase in the number of job opportunities for their labor sector. This provides enough room for the Russian consumers to have more disposable income which reflects to the increasing domestic consumption of their consumers in the recent years.
As a result of the increase in disposable income of the consumers, domestic investment becomes more profitable thereby attracting domestic investors to establish or expand their business. At the end of the day, both the foreign and domestic investors in Russia works hand in hand in order to utilize the Russian labor sector; while on the other hand, it also provides an avenue towards the improvement per capita income of the Russians.
One of the major weaknesses of the Russian economy would be the dependence on the foreign direct investments which could cause major damages on their economic stability once the financial sector in Russia becomes unsuitable to foreign investment. What the Russian government should do is to intensify their domestic investments in order to provide enough room for their domestic investors to utilize the improvement made the foreign investors on the economic environment in Russia through rapid expansion and regulation of regional monopolies in order for other domestic investors to enter various industries.
Evaluation of the Government Policy
The Ordinance No. 1660 which provides the further decrease of the interest rate on borrowing since 2006 serves to be one of the effective policies of the Russian government in order to make the Russian economy more attractive to foreign investors. Furthermore, this policy only provides an impression to the foreign market how stable the Russian financial sector is since they manage to offer lower interest rates on borrowing to foreign investors. The Russian government is very much confident that they can sustain such policy since they possesses large amount of foreign reserves that can easily be liquidated in case of money shortages in the economy (Ignatiev 2007: 1-2).
The bilateral market access agreement with the United States as a prelude to their possible entry to WTO of Russia is also a good policy in further improving the stability of the Russian economy since this provides an avenue towards the attainment of lower inflation rate in the domestic market as cheaper goods from other country starts to enter Russia.
At the end of the day, the domestic prices of goods and services in Russian domestic market, especially those from the regional monopolies, would be forced to lower down their prices in order to compete to imported products coming from other countries thereby creating enough room for the inflation rate of Russia to depreciate for the past year.
Alcarastore.com (2008). Russia GDP PPP and GDP Growth Rates 2003-2007 [online]. Available: http://www.alacrastore.com/country-snapshot/Russia. [Accessed 2 April 2008].
Ignatiev, Sergey (2007). The Macroeconomic Situation and Monetary Policy in Russia [online]. Available: http://www.bis.org/review/r070608d.pdf [Accessed 2 April 2008].
Indexmundi.com (2007a). Russian Economy Profile 2007 [online]. Available: http://www.indexmundi.com/russia/economy_profile.html [Accessed 2 April 2008].
Indexmundi.com (2007b). Russia Unemployment Rate [online]. Available: http://www.indexmundi.com/russia/unemployment_rate.html [Accessed 2 April 2008].
Indexmundi.com (2007c). Russia Inflation Rate (Consumer Prices) [online]. Available: http://www.indexmundi.com/russia/inflation_rate_(consumer_prices).html [Accessed 2 April 2008].
Russiatoday.ru (2007). Russia to miss 2007 inflation target: Economic Minister [online]. Available: http://www.russiatoday.ru/business/news/15319 [Accessed 2 April 2008].
The Central Bank of the Russian Federation (2005). Interest Rates in 2004 [online]. Available: http://www.cbr.ru/eng/statistics/credit_statistics/print.asp?file=interest_rates_04_e.htm [Accessed 2 April 2008].
The Federal State Statistics Office Service (2007). Foreign Trade of the Russian Federation [online]. Available: http://www.gks.ru/free_doc/2007/b07_12/25-02.htm [Accessed 2 April 2008].
Traveldocs.com (2008). Russian Federation: Economy [online]. Available: http://www.traveldocs.com/ru/economy.htm [Accessed 2 April 2008].