The fear of the current account balance becoming negative is not groundless. But such a course of events is not inevitable, because the rise in demand for imports has resulted in weakening of the ruble – which, in its turn, can become an import-restriction factor. This will depend both on the actions of the monetary authorities and on the fiscal policy of Russia. The Central Bank is capable of influencing the exchange rate of the ruble by gradually weakening it in order to restrain the inflow of imports. It is true that such policies would be contrary to the aim of inflation targeting, and so would once again prove that the issues of domestic production remain more important for the Central Bank than those of the achievement of price and currency stability.
The prospects for the balance of payments also depend on the character of Russia’s budgetary policy. Unrestrained budgetary expansion (especially in the part of social allocations) can become a factor of steady demand for imports, and so lead to the emergence of a double deficit (of both the budget and the current account balance).
Fourth. By the end of 2010, the situation on the labor market had become considerably better than what was expected at the beginning of the year. By December 2010, the total number of unemployed persons (calculated under the ILO methodology) had dropped by 0.million to 5.7 million, while the number of officially registered unemployed persons had dropped by 183.1 thousand to 1.9 million. It can be said that the jobless recovery phenomenon (which means that the growth in employment was abnormally weak during the recovery given the growth in output) has failed to materialize in Russia. From the point of view of social and political stability, such a situation can only be greeted warmly. However, it has two possible explanations which actually prevent us from assessing the recovery of the labor market with unreserved enthusiasm.
Firstly, the phenomenon of jobless recovery is the reverse side and indicator of a structural transformation of the economy. It means growth in structural unemployment, i.e., the emergence of new jobs and a lack of persons qualified to fill these jobs. In other words, jobless recovery is a mandatory factor of a comprehensive modernization of the economy which determines its exit from a crisis. The absence of this phenomenon requires a specific discussion of the issue of whether or not modernization is present at the exit phase of the crisis. A similar effect on the economy can be produced by political pressure exerted on businesses and the regions urging them to maximize employment.
Secondly, given the specific demographic situation in contemporary Russia, the fact that the growth in employment is not lagging behind the recovery of the economy may be suggesbe almost impossible to control through monitoring the ruble’s exchange rate. (See Gaidarovskie Chteniia [The Gaidar Readings]. 13 October 2010. http://www.iet.ru/images/READINGS/ulukaev.pdf) RUSSIAN ECONOMY IN trends and outlooks tive of a higher rate of retirement, which would mean that unemployment in Russia drops not only due to a rise in employment but also due to a reduction in the size of the potential workforce (able-bodied persons of working age).
These two explanations do not contradict each other, and, most likely, both of them had some practical influence on the course of events in 2010. Certainly, from the point of view of social stability, such a course of events was useful. However, from the point of view of the need to achieve the goals of modernization, the situation on the labor market has so far been impervious to unambiguous interpretations.
Fifth. Russia has made several important steps towards international integration – both along the lines of the Customs Union and the Common Economic Space initiatives, and also with regard to the issues of Russia’s accession to the WTO. Considerable progress has been achieved in both directions. And in both cases the top issues are not economic or technical, but purely political ones. Will Russia become a member of the WTO, and will the institutes of integration work in the post-Soviet space The answers to these questions depend on the decisions that are being made by the political leaders of the countries involved in the aforesaid processes. For Russia, both processes are important instruments for the stimulation of competition between commodity producers and jurisdictions1.
In an attempt to combine anti-crisis measures with modernization, the Russian government, in the past two years, began to introduce some new elements in its economic policy that were considerably different from those typical of 2000-08.
First of all, it was a new macroeconomic reality – a stubborn budget deficit and persistent growth in government borrowing. The rise of these phenomena was facilitated by the existence of huge reserves and a low level of state debt on the eve of the crisis.
Another political novelty (stemming from the previous one) was the government’s U-turn towards heavier taxation. Throughout almost all of its post-communist history, since the imposition of a fundamentally new tax system in 1992, Russia was only cutting taxes (unlike the excises on carbohydrates, tobacco and alcoholic beverages). A number of decisive measures designed to reduce taxes were implemented in 2000 – 2001. It should be taken into account that one of the important – although not declared – reasons for reducing taxes was the government’s desire to set them at a level and under a model that could be truly administered by the state – that is, to set the tax rates as close as possible to the effective level.
Now the trend has changed. Recently, there occurred a significant rise in social allocations (first of all, those to the Pension Fund) and in taxes on carbohydrates. The fiscal logic of these moves is sufficiently clear – with budget expenditure being increased it is practically inevitable that taxes will go up as well. According to Russia’s minister of finance, tax increases should be continued for the time being. However, it is also apparent that the imposition of heavier taxes on labor de-stimulates structural modernization, because tax hikes are most painful for labor-intensive industries, while raw-materials industries are less responsive to them.
In a bid to mitigate the negative impact of the rise in taxes, the authorities have begun to more actively resort to discrete (pinpointed) measures of economic policy. The most vivid example of this trend is the establishment of the Skolkovo innovation zone, whose residents are granted an unprecedented range of tax and administrative benefits – from a very low rate of For the competition of jurisdictions, see Shuvalov I., Rossiia na puti modernizatsii (Russia on the Way to Modernization) // Ekonomicheskaia Politika. 2010. No 1.
The Socio-Political Context social contributions to the introduction of their own (detached from the general system) lawenforcement, tax and customs bodies. In effect, the Skolkovo initiative is an effort to create a center for innovation and growth administered in a manner befitting a contemporary postindustrial society. This experiment is very important, because its outcome will have some farreaching consequences for the economic and social life of Russia.
In fact, the government has embarked on a course of singling out and selectively assisting ‘national champions’ – individual industries and sectors that, for one or other reason, are considered to be promising. Actually, this trend had begun well before the crisis, with the establishment of the State Nanotechnologies Corporation Rosnanotech, when the government came to believe that nanotechnologies were the crucial determinant of scientific and technological progress ‘that should be bolstered at all costs’1. Those initial steps were followed, already under crisis conditions, by the creation of the Commission for Modernization and Technological Development of Russia’s Economy headed by Dmitry Medvedev. At its very first meeting in the autumn of 2009, the Commission singled out five priority areas for science and technology development (energy effectiveness and energy saving, including development of new types of fuel; space technologies, first of all in the field of telecommunications; medical technologies; strategic information technologies, including supercomputer and software development). In March 2010, the Government Commission on High Technology and Innovation was established under the chairmanship of Vladimir Putin. These two commissions were designed to address general issues of innovative development and modernization, and to supervise the implementation of pinpointed projects – ‘national champions’.
The same logic can be applied to the recently initiated transformation of the model of special economic zones (SEZ). Initially, SEZs were interpreted as the growth points established by way of a competitive tendering process designed to define an optimum region for business and innovation activities. On the contrary, the present trend is to establish special economic zones ‘by decree’ – that is, to create them at a place considered to be feasible from the point of view of forming one or other technological cluster. One of the examples of this approach is the proposed Titanium Valley special economic zone in Sverdlovsk Oblast.
In late 2010, in order to compensate small businesses for the rise in social taxes, the government, being well aware of the fact that some businesses would go into the shadow, took the decision that for the next two years insurance contributions to the Pension Fund should be reduced from 26 % to 18 % for small enterprises and individual entrepreneurs engaged in production and rendering of social service to the population.
Finally, in 2010, the issue of privatization was again put on the front burner. The government adopted a large-scale program of privatization that envisaged the sale of stakes in enterprises with minority shareholding by the State, as well as minority stakes in some of the biggest state-owned companies decisively controlled by the State, such as Rosneft, RZhD, Rusgidro, Sberbank, VTB, and a number of other giants. Apparently, the objectives of this privatization initiative are to attract strategic investors (and so to obtain investment resources and improve corporate governance), and also to increase budget revenues. In the present cir There were apparent similarities between that course and The Plan for the Electrification of Russia (GOERLO). Decades ago, Lenin said that ‘Communism is Soviet power plus the electrification of the whole country’. In other words, electrification, coupled with political stability, was perceived as a key factor of the political and economic breakthrough that was being attempted by a country recovering from a revolution.
RUSSIAN ECONOMY IN trends and outlooks cumstances, the former objective should be regarded as a crucial one, although only time will show whether or not it can actually be achieved in practice1.
1.1.3. A quest for a new growth model One of the illusions usually cherished at the beginning of a structural crisis is the expectation that the good old days will return – that the turmoil will be overcome and the old growth model will be restored. Such a strategy is erroneous, though. A crisis like the present one necessitates the formation of a new model of economic development. Only after this requirement has been met, a recovery from crisis can begin. At the stage of exiting the crisis, the advantage will be on the side of the countries capable of building that model and then most consistently and resolutely implementing it in practice. So, the specific role of a structural crisis is t o stimulate the building of a new growth model and to provide individual countries with the chance to achieve a breakthrough in their development.
At present, Russia has to make a choice between two alternative strategies of socioeconomic development. This choice must be made by the country’s political elite in the nearest future.
The first strategy envisages the development of the existing growth model and its adaptation to challenges as they come. Under this arrangement, the State represents the main source of growth – in the triple role of the provider of key financial resources, the neutralizer of market anarchy, and the holder of the key institutions that are necessary for economic growth.
The State designates priorities and concentrates the political and economic resources that are necessary for achieving them, builds the financial system on the basis of state-owned banks and exchanges, and directly manages key production companies (controls the ‘commanding heights’). Under this system, state demand not only for goods and services but also for institutions turns out to be system-forming. Household demand for goods and services also depends to a great extent on the State.
The second strategy envisages a rise in the importance of private sources of growth (private firms and households). They should gradually squeeze the State out of the business sphere. The State should create maximally favorable conditions for the functioning of private economic agents, and stimulate their interest in development, i.e., stimulate the supply of goods and services.
This dichotomy is well known, for it is frequently encountered in economic history and economic history. It had emerged long before the current global crisis. The choice between demand-side economics and supply-side economics forms the basis of the century-long discursive contest between the Keynesian and neoclassical models of economic growth.
This issue is even more pressing in developing countries (or in the countries pursuing catch-up modernization). In his analysis of the developmental experiences of Germany and Russia in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Alexander Gerschenkron has shown that, in In principle, privatization can pursue three goals: political, economic and fiscal. The first goal consists in strengthening the existing political regime through widening its social base. The second consists in attracting efficient owners and in improving the quality of economic growth. The third consists in increasing state budget revenues. In the situation of the 1990s, just as it happened in every major revolution of the past, the first goal was absolutely predominant. In conditions of political stability, the economic goal comes to the fore, although the other two goals also play their part, being quite congruent with each other. (For mare details, see Mau V.
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