Nemtsov finished up with 13.6 % of the vote, while the CPRF candidate Yu. Dzagania finished third with 6.7 % (the rest of the candidates were merely symbolic – they had not conducted any electioneering activities and practically failed to collect any votes). However, the election was marred with one scandalous flaw – the amount of voters who cast their vote early amounted to nearly 10 % of the registered electorate, or to one-quarter of those who actually took part in the voting; equally suspicious is the fact that all of them voted for Pakhomov2. It turned out that Pakhomov should have won even without the tactic of early voting being applied, but this outcome could not have been predicted in advance. Nevertheless, the Sochi election can indeed be characterized as a step forward – however small;
because there an opposition candidate was, at least, not disqualified but duly registered.
At the same time, April witnessed some events of a directly opposite nature.
The RF State Duma adopted in the second reading a draft law to the effect that deputies of municipal representative bodies should enjoy the right to remove mayors from office on a broad range of grounds. This procedure can be initiated by one-third of deputies of a local assembly or by the head of a RF subject. It is curious that, when considering this issue, 1 There was only one election which took place in parallel with that in Sochi – the early election of the Vladikavkaz City Assembly, which contrasted sharply with the situation in March when elections of mayors and legislatures had simultaneously been held in a score of constituencies.
2 The procedure of early voting makes it technically impossible to prevent vote rigging, if one or other election commission should decide to resort to such trickst.
RUSSIAN ECONOMY: TRENDS AND PERSPECTIVES the State Duma even ignored the objections voiced by the All-Russian public association “The Russian Federation Council on Local Self-Government” (VSMS) functioning under the aegis of United Russia. In his turn, Prime Minister V. Putin went even further and mentioned the proposal that mayors of regional capitals should be directly appointed by the governors. By the way, among those fully responsible for the emergence of this draft law there is D. Medvedev himself, because formally it was he who had introduced the draft document into the State Duma. Although it is true that, in the past, mayors could also be removed from office without consulting the voter – through the initiation of criminal cases against them, this draft law essentially broadens the opportunities for exerting pressure on mayors to surrender the considerable resources available to them on the municipal level.
In April, Dubai police produced a sensational report on the course of the investigation of the attempt on the life of Sulim Yamadaev, former commander of the Vostok battalion, a special forces unit of the Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU). Yamadaev, an ardent opponent of R. Kadyrov, was hit by gunmen on 28 March. Most likely, he was killed on the spot (although his relatives affirm that he has survived). The Dubai authorities arrested several persons and put out international arrest warrants for several others, including the closest associate of R. Kadyrov and member of the RF State Duma, A. Delimkhanov. Meanwhile, Kadyrov made a number of strange statements resembling a confession of guilt: in particular, he announced that Sulim Yamadaev had been involved in the murder of Kadyrov Sr.1 In fact, Russia is again facing a situation resembling the Litvinenko affair.
RF Prime Minister V. Putin addressed the State Duma with a report on the 2008 performance. According to him, the coming year will be “very difficult”. One of the objectives was formulated by the Prime Minister as follows: “…to preserve the key enterprises… to accelerate the transition to knowledge-based economy… We must not simply maintain the domestic demand, but also implement major projects to start creating an infrastructure for the future”.
Among the achievements of the Government mentioned in the report, special emphasis was placed on the prevention of a collapse of the banking system; the preservation of people’s savings in Russian banks; the prevention of a paralysis of settlements between enterprises; and the smooth devaluation of the national currency.
Putin expressed his confidence that in the nearest future there will be an increase in bank credit, a drop in the rate of inflation, and a fall in the Central Bank’s interest rate.
In April, the RF State Duma approved a new federal budget for the year 2009 (the threeyear budget adopted last year had been annulled because of the crisis, and the country had returned to one-year budgets). It is noteworthy that the preparation of the new budget itself was repeatedly postponed. The most surprising result was the planned increase in the federal budget’s expenditure (by more than 7 %) taking place against the background of a significant fall in revenue (by more than 38 %). The budget deficit of 3 trillion rubles (or more than 7 % of GDP) will be fully covered at the expense of the Reserve Fund, threequarters of which will be spent for this purpose.
Cuts were made in almost all the expenditures excepting those on social policy, interbudget transfers, the housing and communal utilities complex, and “the national economy”. At the same time, the growth of transfers to the regions and of the expenditures on the housing and communal utilities complex is quite understandable, for these expenditures are called to compensate for the considerable loss in income suffered by regional budgets, and to keep afloat the financing of social mandates. As regards the expenditures 1 Previously, R. Kadyrov had affirmed that the murder of Akhmad Kadyrov was perpetrated by the armed Islamist underground, and that its last surviving organizers were all eliminated in 2006-7.
THE POLITICO-ECONOMIC RESULTS OF THE APRIL on the “national economy”, which were increased more than two-fold (by more than 1,billion rubles), their reasonability is open to doubt – and even more so because they are not ptoperly itemized (they were distributed only by branch, with almost one-third of the expenditures within these budget items being mysteriously denoted as “other issues”).
Judging from the structure of the new budget and from the Russian authorities’ determination to spend the Reserve Fund, it appears likely that they are expecting hydrocarbon prices to sharply rise over the coming year, thus significantly increasing the budget’s revenue. Such a strategy can be dangerous, because hydrocarbon prices are not only prone to fluctuations in some periods, but also to periods of considerable stability.
In April 2009, rumors of one noteworthy transaction finally came true. The joint-stock financial company AFK Sistema bought out the enterprises of the Bashkirian fuel and energy complex for 2.5 billion USD. Prior to this deal, Sistema owned the blocking parcels of shares in six companies. The Board of Directors of Basneft discontinued the powers of its general director Ural Rakhimov, son of Bashkortostan President Murtaza Rakhimov.
Thus, control over the Bashkirian fuel and energy complex passed to V. Evtushenkov’s corporation, which signified yet another achievement for the latter (a month ago a representative of Sistema was appointed head of Aeroflot). And still earlier, the Federal Tax Service had withdrawn its legal actions demanding that shares in the companies of the Bashkirian fuel and energy complex should be withdrawn (in 2003, the Bashkortostan authorities had passed these shares, virtually free of charge, to Ural Rakhimov’s structures, which resulted in a succession of lawsuits).
In April, after several years of being at loggerheads with his superiors, the deputy head of the RF Federal Service for Natural Resources Supervision (Rosprirodnadzor), Oleg Mitvol, announced his resignation. He made public his plans to get engaged in voluntary work as head of the interregional ecological movement “Green Initiative”. Mitvol also promised to take part in elections, on the next single day of voting in October1. Thus, it cannot be ruled out that we might see the birth of yet another political project.
April also saw the retirement of the head of the Main Intelligence Directorate of the RF Armed Forces General Staff, V. Korabelnikov. He was replaced in this position by his first deputy, A. Shliakhturov. Although formally Koraelshikov retired on age grounds, and he was awarded a decoration, experts saw his retirement as a continuation of the ongoing reshuffle at the RF Ministry of Defense, caused by the general lack of loyalty towards the current Minister of Defense, a civilian, on the part of the generals.
1 Bearing in mind that only political parties enjoy the right to participate in regional party-list elections, it is not very clear whether the case in point is the creation of a party or simply an episodical standing as candidate in one of the majoritarian electoral districts.
RUSSIAN ECONOMY: TRENDS AND PERSPECTIVES INFLATTION AND MONETARY POLICY N.Luksha As of March results, the CPI in Russia amounted to 1.3 per cent, slightly higher than in the relevant period of the preceding year. The volume of foreign currency reserves remained practically unchanged, by the end of the month it amounted to USD 383.9 bln.
The real effective ruble exchange rate has increased by 3.3per cent, and as of the results of the I-st quarter of 2009 it’s decrease made 11.9 per cent. Within the I-st quarter of 2009, the external corporate debt has decreased by USD 29 bln, or by 6.4 per cent, having reached USD 423 bln by the end of the quarter. The value of the two-currency basket has been decreased for the first time since July 2008, amounting RUR 38.93.
On March 27, the Bank of Russia has informed a modification in the estimates of mandatory reserves for banks. A month later, it was decided to extend the deadlines of a stageby-stage increase in the existing standards of mandatory reserves. On April 10, the Central Bank has decided to temporarily increase credit limits on unsecured credit. On April 17, the RF Central Bank has amended the requirements to the direct REPO operations. Since April 24, for the first time since summer 2007 the refinancing rate was reduced to 12.5 per annum. At the same time, the interest rates on loans and deposits of commercial banks with the RF Central Bank were reduced.
The consumer price index in March made 1.3 percent (against 1.2 per cent in the March of preceding year) (See Fig. 1). The greatest input in prices growth in March, like in preceding month, was made by food products (+1.7 per cent). The utmost growth rates were observed for granulated sugar (+6.4 per cent), fruit and vegetables (+4.5 per cent), as well as for fish and seafood (+2.8 per cent) and for pasta (+2.3 per cent). Herewith, in March there was further reduction in sunflower oil and eggs prices: within the month they have downgraded by 2.9 per cent and 1.5 per cent, accordingly, on average countrywide.
In March, growth was observed also about non-food items, which prices have increased by 1.4 per cent. As in preceding months, the highest growth rates were noted for medicines (+5.3 per cent). The fast growing rates were noted for cleaning detergents (+3.1 per cent) and tobacco (+3 per cent). The price for gasoline was further downgrading(-2.5per cent).
The growth of prices for commercial services has declined, having amounted as of month results to 0,6 per cent (against 1,4 per cent in February, 2009).The utmost growth was noted in prices for telecommunication services (+2.4per cent), medical services and cultural institutions services (by 1.4 per cent). Prices for international tourism have declined by 0.4 per cent.
Therefore, as of March results, the growth rate of consumer prices in Russia continued to slow down, having only slightly overrating the relevant indicator of preceding year. The inflation decline, as in the preceding month, was due to a significant (more than two-fold) reduction in the rate of growth in prices in the sector of commercial services. Monetary supply decrease and consumer demand decline, caused by the reduced real disposable income (which, according to January-February results, fell down by 7.2 per cent per annum) have also become the important factors of the growth rate decline. Apparently, those factors will be decisive in April as well, when, according to our estimation, inflation rate will be lower, than in March.
INFLATION AND MONETARY POLICY 3,5% The CPI1 in March 3,0% made 1.4 per cent (versus 1.1 per cent in the relevant 2,5% period of preceding year).
2,0% As of March 2009 results, the monetary base 1,5% (in broad definition2) has 1,0% been declined less than by 0,5% 1 per cent and amounted to RUR 4.2988 trillion. As of 0,0% March 1, 2009 the volume -0,5% of the monetary base in a broad definition reached RUR 4331,0 bln Let us consider the dynamics of Source: Russian Statistical Agency the monetary base in broad definition by components.
Fig. 1 The Growth Rate of the CPI in 2002–2008 (% per month) As of April 1, 2009, cash in circulation with regard to the fund balances in credit organizations made RUR 3.7 trillion (1.1 per cent decline against March 1), correspondent accounts of credit organizations in the Bank of Russia made RUR 431.7 billion (-4.5 per cent), mandatory reserves made RUR 33.billion (+6.7 per cent), banks’ deposits in the Bank of Russia made RUR 163.4 billion (+19.per cent), the value of shares of the Bank of Russia with credit organizations made RUR 12.billion (+3.33 per cent).
Within March 2009, growth of excessive reserves of commercial banks continued3, its index has risen up by RUR 6.4 bln or by 1.1 per cent. As within the preceding month, the bank deposits in the RF Central Bank have demonstrated the highest growth. Reduction of correspondent accounts can be regarded as insignificant. According to V. Goreglyad, the Auditor of the RF Accounts Chamber, the situation with the bank liquidity has stabilized.
In confirmation to his words, there should be mentioned the lowest levels of direct REPO auctions, as well as the fact, that monetary market rates within the last weeks of March were sustained below the 10 per cent per annum for overnight loans.
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