The intensity of the growth in effective demand by the industrial sector as a whole has recovered completely after the slowdown noted in January. Reports on growth in monetary sales exceed at 13 points the reports on the fall in the number of such transactions. An absolute fall in sales on the sectoral level was registered only in the electric power, construction, and food- processing sectors, while the other sectors experienced the growth in monetary sales, which was especially intensive in the chemicals, petrochemicals, and wood- working sector. The intensity of the contraction in barter transactions has been practically unchanged over the last six months. The volume of barter transactions falls in all the industry branches.
The growth in the aggregate ( effective + barter) demand also renewed in February. The most intensive growth in the index was registered in machine building, chemicals, petrochemicals, and wood- working sector. The fall in the volume of the summary demand was reported by the electric power sector, construction industry, and metallurgy.
On the base of questions on the dynamics of effective and barter demand one may get an index of substitution of one kind of demand for the other. The substitution for barter demand by effective one takes place in the event the growth in monetary sales is accompanied by the fall or absence of changes in barter transactions, while the maintenance of the volume of sales- by the fall in barter. An inverse substitution (effective demand by barter demand) would become possible should the correlation between answers be inverse. As our computations show, since August 1998 ( the beginning of our registration of through January 1999 the barter demand has substituted for monetary one. However, having reached its peak value in the intensity of such a supplanting was alleviating. In February 1999, the barter demand was substituted by effective one for the first time, and such a correlation is maintained until now. In February 2000, the substitution index reached its absolute maximal value: the effective demand supplanted the barter one at 35% of enterprises, while the inverse process was happening at 7%.
In the wake of that, the dynamics of output renewed. The share of reports on the growth in output by the industrial sector as a whole once again broke 40%. An absolute contraction in output was registered in the food- processing industry, construction sector, and non- ferrous metallurgy, while the other sectors experienced growth in their output.
In February, the deficit of the stocks of finished products fell notably. The seasonal slowdown in the volume of sales in January helped the situation at the storage facilities stabilize. The decline in the share of responses “below norm” also continued last month. The surplus of stocks was accumulated by enterprises of the ferrous metallurgy, chemicals, petrochemicals, and wood- working sectors, while the other industry branches still mostly report the lack of reserves.
The dynamics of price rise did not experienced any change in February. The growth continues in all the sectors, while the most moderate growth was registered in the food- processing industry.
Having reached their absolute maximal value in January, the projections of changes in output slightly dropped in February. Half of enterprises plan to increase their volume in output over the forthcoming months. Growth is possible in all the sectors, except the electric power and wood- working sectors. The most optimistic projections were reported by the chemical sector, petrochemicals, and construction industry.
The projections of a change in effective demand grew by yet 6 points in February and peaked their absolute maximum. All the sectors envisage the growth in monetary sales.
In February, projections of a change in barter transactions practically did not change. Only 6-7 % of enterprises have planned a growth in such transactions over recent months. The decline in barter operations is envisaged in all the sectors, except the industry of construction materials.
To the Concept of Creating Russian State Agricultural Bank
The idea of founding a unitary state agricultural bank has been revived in the country. A concept of Rosselkhozbank (Russian Agricultural Bank) has been worked out. It envisages the creation of a state agricultural bank that will control all the financial flows in the agrifood sector and will be in command of all the budget support to agriculture. Besides, the settlement accounts of agrifood market operators are to be concentrated in the system of this bank. Such a super-concentration of agribusiness funds could be earlier observed only in the Soviet Agroprombank. Let's see what it's fraught with for the Russian economy and agriculture in particular.
To begin with, the country doesn't need a unitary state bank for crediting agriculture. The experience of foreign countries and especially of several years of Russian Agroprombank's operation proves the counter-productiveness of such a bank. First, a bank crediting a single sector is not viable. The non-diversified banking activity is inevitably leading to bankruptcy. There can be no specialized banks fulfilling universal functions. Second, such a bank is fully dependent on external financial sources (budget funds, funds of international financial organizations, etc.) and cannot provide for normal inter-complementarity between savings and investments which is essential for any bank. Besides, such a bank becomes an unbearable burden for the national budget. Third, such a narrowly specialized agricultural bank becomes isolated from the country's credit system, it cannot attract urban savings for financing agriculture and is cut off from the processes in the common banking system (e.g. the establishing of market interest rate, etc.). Fourth, a state bank granting soft credits to agriculture completely blocks the emergence of market agricultural credit institutions and thus conserves a specific nature of agricultural credit. On the one hand, the state bank inevitably becomes a mechanism of non-market, bureaucratic distribution of loans with all the ensuing negative outcomes, and, on the other hand, is not regarded as a regular bank by its debtors that find it possible not to pay back. This aggravates the above mentioned problems.
Another problem entailed by concentrating funds in a single bank is the danger to make bankrupt many regional banks. At present over one half of agricultural producers' accounts is kept in regional banks. The adoption of the above concept will entail a simultaneous withdrawal of funds from these banks' accounts. The country's banking system is still so weak after the 1998 crisis that such a step can detonate another crisis.
Moreover, the immense financial resources of agrifood sector are supposed to be concentrated in the hands of management of a joint-stock (though state) Rosselkhozbank. This creates an obvious monopoly that will surely deteriorate the financial support of the sector. Budget allocations to agriculture will go again through an authorized bank while the country has "laboured" the decision to transfer to the treasury servicing of budget funds' flows. In other words, agriculture is deliberately put into worse conditions as compared to other sectors of the economy.
And finally, the creation of Rosselkhozbank that controls all the agribusiness financial flows will completely eliminate the influence of RF Ministry of Agriculture and Food on the sector's development.
Food Aid to Russia
The issue of US food aid to Russia was raised again in February. According to the agreement signed, 500 thousand tons of food products including 300 thousand tons of wheat will be shipped to Russia as a free of charge humanitarian aid. The US will pay for the freight as well. One would think that such a small food package cannot impact the development of domestic agrifood sector, especially given that Russia's expenses will be insignificant (internal transportation, loading and unloading, storage and marketing). However, the granting of food aid is again conditioned by the Russia's obligation not to export wheat and wheat flour. And this is too a high price for such a tiny amount of humanitarian food aid.
In 1998 Russia was a net exporter of grains (Table 1). In 1999 grain export was impossible due to foreign humanitarian aid received but Russian exporters notably increased the volumes of wheat flour export. In 2000 export of flour is to be banned as well. Thus even such a small food aid package will seriously affect Russian grain exporters and consequently agricultural producers.
Russia's export and import of grain and flour, thousand tons
1998 as % of 1997
1999 as % of 1998 (9 months)
Source: Customs statistics of foreign trade of the Russian Federation.
Moreover, the check of utilization of humanitarian aid received from the US and EA in 1999 conducted by the Auditing Chamber revealed numerous breaches of the established procedure: the aid was not distributed according to the initially specified destination, some regions re-sold it, companies authorized to distribute food aid committed many violations.
As of December 1, 1999 Russia received food aid to the amount over 13 billion rubles of the expected more than 18 billion rubles. The Pension fund that was to be the major beneficiary from marketing this aid got 3.7 billion rubles.
In other words, as we had forecast the last year's food aid program turned out to be extremely inefficient (and not needed from the economic point of view - see our earlier surveys). Nevertheless, this year the food aid agreement has been signed again.
The balance of demand-supply in the international oil market emerges in such a way that leaves no chance for a significant price downfall. The OPEC countries have not yet increased their output, while non- OPEC members decreased their output in 1999, and it is envisaged that their increment in output should make up 0.8 mln. barrel/day in 2000. That is too small increment to have a substantial impact on the market, for the increment in consumption is estimated to stand at the level of 1.4 mln. barrel/day. That is why the position of OPEC countries would be crucial.
The OPEC countries will hold their next meeting in late- March. The further dynamics of international oil prices will be determined by decisions to be taken at that meeting.
Average monthly international prices in December respective year
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