As for geographic structure of Russian foreign trade it is the European Union that still remains the biggest trade partner, whose share in January 2007 is equal to 54.5% of Russian foreign trade turnover, which is, however, by 1.2% lower than last year. Among EU-countries, the most notable growth of trade turnover occurred with Italy and the Netherlands – up to 8.9% and 9.2% of the total Russian trade turnover, correspondingly. The share of the turnover with Asian-Pacific Economic Cooperation countries increased from 15.4% to 17.1%. Among these countries a notable increase in the turnover occurred with Korea, whose share increased from 1.5% to 2.4%. The share of Russian trade turnover with Euro-Asian Economic Community increased from 7.6% to 8.1%, the share of CIS-countries– from 14.6% to 15%, the share of Ukraine and Belarus decreasing at the same time. It was Kazakhstan in this region that experienced the most considerable growth of trade turnover– from 2.1% to 3%.
In February 2007 Russian government made decisions, marking the change in export policy with regard to woodwork production with the aim to decrease export volumes of rough wood.
At present Russia supplies 40% of the unprocessed softwood world market, remaining considerably behind the countries with the most developed forestry by the extent of raw materials processing. At the same time extremely favorable customs regime was in effect over the last years. Export duty rate for roundwood is only 6.5% at present, which is much lower than in Brazil, Canada, the USA and other exporting countries.
Over the last 10 years the volume of rough wood export to non-CIS countries tripled, being equal to 47.mln. cu. m in 2005. In 2006 roundwood export increased up to 50.4 mln. cu. m. It should be however noted that as a result of the last year the export growth rates went down to 6.3% from 15.8% in 2005. Export growth rates slowdown can be partially accounted for by the increase of export duty specific component from euro 2.5 to euro 4 per cu. m.
Rational integration in the world market requires implementation of a certain strategy in export policy, concerning, in the first place, roundwood. In February 2007 decree of the Government of the Russian Federation No 75 was published. Its main idea is the increase of export customs duties for some kinds of roughwood, excluding small-scale pulp-wood, hard and fine wood in three stages: specific component of export customs duty is established at the level of euro 10 per 1cu. m. from 1July 2007, of euro 15 per 1 cu. m. – from 1 April 2008, of euro 50 per 1 cu. M. – from 1 January 2008. г Earlier some measures to decrease roughwood export and stimulate domestic wood-processing have already been undertaken. Thus, import duties for the main kinds of high-technological equipment, which is not produced in Russia were zeroed (more than 600 articles). Export duty rates for more than 300 kinds of wood and paper production with high added value – plates, plywood, market cellulose, dominant paper and cardboard production - were abolished. At the same time export duty rates for some kinds of roundwood. In order to protect domestic market import duty rates for furniture were amended. The exporters were supported by export credits interest rates subsidizing.
The intention of the Russian Government to increase export duty rates for roughwood caused apprehension in Finland. Russian wood comprises 80% of the raw materials supplied to Finland from foreign countries. According to the forecasts of the Finnish experts, the increase of duties for rough wood will lead to the cessation of the wood import from Russia, which threatens not only the loss of the raw materials source but also thousands of workplaces in the timber industry.
Finnish party considers that Russia’s resolution to increase export duties for rough wood is contrary to the bilateral agreement on the conditions of Russia’s accession to the WTO, which was signed by the EU and Russia in May 2004. This issue should be settled before Russia’s accession to the WTO.
N. Volovik, S. Vlasov Comments on the RF Draft Federal Law “On the Bank for Development” On 14 February 2007 the RF State Duma adopted, in the first reading, the Draft Law “On the Bank for Development”. The text of the draft law, as well as the Explanatory Note thereon, and the Concept of the Draft Law are sufficiently detailed in describing the basic principles and terms of functioning, in Russia, of a Bank for Development, thus making it possible to get a comprehensive idea of the character of the proposed scheme.
In accordance with the submitted documents, the Bank for Development is planned, in fact, as nonbanking noncommercial establishment, which is to perform a number of banking operations, whose range is rather limited, in accordance with the tasks set by the RF Government.
From our point of view, the submitted draft federal law is insufficiently worked out in some of its details, and therefore requires considerable elaboration. Otherwise, the efficiency in achieving the goals set for the Bank for Development and the efficiency and transparency of the Bank’s activity as such cannot be sufficiently guaranteed.
1. Within the framework of the proposed concept, the Bank for Development is a non-banking establishment, accountable for the most part to the RF Government. The Bank of Russia controls only a very narrow range of technical issues with regard to the Bank for Development’s reporting. Thus, from our point of view, the construction suggested in the draft law represents a mixture of two different concepts of establishments operating in the countries around the world – the Bank for Development proper, and state corporations for development. Accordingly, the former, as a rule, are banking establishments accountable to the agencies of bank supervision; and they play the role of a financial institution guaranteeing the achievement of the state goals determined by other state agencies. The latter are noncommercial public organizations operating in close cooperation with the governments and commercial financial institutions.
Thus, the proposed construction have no analogues in world practice, while neither the Concept of the Draft Law nor the Explanatory Note offer any convincing arguments in favor of the adopted decision.
2. The draft law and the attached documents absolutely fail to mention that the RF Bank for Foreign Economic Affairs, which is planned to be reorganized into the Bank for Development, is a state asset manager in charge of the pension savings of RF citizens. This fact should have been mentioned at least once in the Draft Law’s section devoted to the reorganization of the RF Bank for Foreign Economic Affairs. Moreover, the draft law directly prohibits for the Bank for Development to handle operations on financial markets (except in the instances specified by the RF Government; however, a government decision is unlikely to be sufficient to resolve the issue of pension savings management, and therefore it is necessary to legislatively consolidate this issue). Accordingly, the adoption of this draft law and the creation of the Bank of Development cannot be effectuated until the issue of pension savings management is resolved at the legislative level (which means establishing a new state asset manager and transferring to it the resources of the Bank for Foreign Economic Affairs).
3. A number of provisions regarding the organization of management of the Bank for Development are open to questions. In particular, it is proposed that the Chairman of the Bank for Development should be appointed by decree of the RF President, which we assume to be unnecessary. This decision can well be taken by the Chairman of the RF Government. Also, the draft law envisages that the amounts of remuneration for the Supervisory Board’s members should be established by the Supervisory Board itself, which cannot be a guarantee of a transparency and justice. As in the previous case, it would be advisable to assign this function either to the RF Government or to one of the ministries or agencies of the economic block.
4. In accordance with the draft law, the Bank for Development should not be a professional participant of the securities market, which can create certain impediments to its activity, including operations on international markets.
Bearing in mind the aforesaid comments, we believe that the adoption of this draft law would be premature, and that it is advisable to rework the Draft Law “On the Bank for Development” in accordance with the concept of creating the Bank for Development as a banking institution with a specific bank charter and specific limitations imposed on its operations, which would be accountable to both the RF Government (in the part of its goals and the operations being performed) and the Bank of Russia (in the part of controlling its current activities as well as economic and financial indicators).
S. Drobyshevsky The institutional and structural disproportions of the stock market Below, some institutional and structural problems associated with the development of Russia’s stock market in 2006 are discussed. Special attention is focused on those long-term disproportions in the market’s development which remained important in the period of 2006 - 2007.
The year 2006 saw very considerable growth in the external financing of biggest companies and banks. In 2006 the aggregate volume of the biggest initial public offerings (IPO) (including those by “Rosneft”) amounted to no less than $ 17 billion. Corporate bonds became the driving force of the issues released on the debt market, their placement volume having increased from 260.6 billion roubles in 2005 to 465.3 billion roubles in 2006, or by 1.8 times. The total volume of rouble-denominated bonds in circulation, including federal securities, corporate and regional bonds, increased brom 1.5 trillion roubles in 2005 to 2.2 trillion roubles in 2006, or by 1.4 times.
According to the estimations made by analysts from several investment banks, the aggregate volume of the IPOs made by Russian companies companies may amount in 2007 to $ 20 - 22 billion, and including those by Sberbank and Vneshtorgbank - to 30 - 40 billion. Approximately 60 Russian companies are planning to make IPOs in the year 2007, but in reality (given the existing level of market preparedness and the general situation on the market) this will be achieved by only 30 companies. Moreover, there also exists a pessimistic forecast: as estimated by Citigroup Global Markets, Russian companies will not be able to exceed in 2007 the level of 2006 (the forecast for the year 2007 is 32 IPOs and $ 18.4 billion), while after the 2008 presidential election the situation will be rather similar to that of 2005 (in 2005 – $ 5.2 billion, the forecast for 2008 is 18 IPOs and $ 4.7 billion). The current dramatic growth in the number of IPOs is therefore directly associated with the desire to insure against the risks of the new phase of the politico – business cycle which will begin after March 2008.
The foreign expansion of quite a few of large private Russian companies (or groups), which was characteristic of 2005 – 2006, can also be explained, in all probability, not only by the logic of corporate development, the consolidation of their positions on new markets and a search for appropriate objects to invest their free funds in, but also by the preparation for a new politico – business cycle in Russia. These considerations can also be applied to some of the biggest state-owned companies, although for other reasons. In late January 2007, Director of the Federal Agency for Federal Property Management V. L. Nazarov announced that one more public offering of a block of shares in “Rosneft”, within the limits of 25 % (or approximately $ billion), was possible, but very shortly this declaration was undermined by his supervisor in the government – RF Minister of Economic Development and Trade G. O. Gref. Nevertheless, such a controversy in approaches, according to available estimates, has demonstrated that the attempts to privatize the greatest possible part of the state-owned block of shares in “Rosneft” before March 2008, with their subsequent legalization in the interests of a very limited circle of subjects, are becoming more intense.
The electoral cycle, according to forecast, is going to directly influence the decrease, in 2007, in the volume of foreign direct investments (where, as noted earlier, it is quite difficult to differentiate between truly foreign and repatriated capitals). Forecasts are unanimous in the general expectation of a slump in this sphere, however the motives pointed to are different. Thus, Standard&Poors explained the forecasted slump by the expected simultaneously weakening rush on the raw materials markets, which used to promote investments in the raw-materials assets of developing countries, and by the nationalization of the energy assets in Russia, Bolivia, Venezuela, and Ecuador. The Russian Union of Entrepreneurs and Industrialists directly links the slump with the future political risks associated with the parliamentary and presidential elections in Russia. Besides, there exists the objective problem of the preparedness of Russian companies. In contrast to the attitude of Russian owners, the political risks which are not directly connected to the electoral cycle remain very significant in the eyes of the most conservative among foreign institutional investors.
At the same time, in recent years the development of the stock market has been characterized by a number of disproportions, which, in effect, represent a chronic phenomenon.
The growth of the share market in 2006 was produced by the very intense growth of the trading activity of non-residents, the population and Russian institutional investors. The decisive role there, just as in 2005, was played by non-residents. The attractiveness of the Russian stock market for non-residents was associated not only with the high yields on the investments in shares, but also by such factors as the overall stable macroeconomic situation in this country supported by the high prices of exported raw materials, the liberalization of the market for “Gazprom”’s shares, the strengthening of the rouble / USD exchange rate, the lifting of restrictions formerly imposed by legislation on foreign currency regulation and foreign currency control, and the excessive liquidity on the global markets resulting from low interest rates.
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