SPIEF 2018 was held under the slogan “Building a Trust Economy,” and this year reached new heights, both in terms of scale and results. With its numerous achievements, it would be fair to call it an innovative, technological, and indeed breakthrough event.
“In spite of the sanctions imposed by a number of countries, the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum demonstrated that Russia is a land of opportunity. The 17,000-plus participants arriving from 143 countries is testament to that fact. Over the past few years, SPIEF has developed to become an international platform, with its main achievement being the creation of a space where the spirit of trust prevails. Trust is a key asset in the business world, and discussions at the Forum focused on this crucial aspect,” said Advisor to the President of the Russian Federation and Executive Secretary of the SPIEF Organizing Committee Anton Kobyakov at the event’s closing press conference.
Guests from every continent, and representatives from international organizations such as the UN, IMF, OPEC and others spoke ever more profusely on the need to operate in a single economic space and find new areas of common ground in a changing world. President of France Emmanuel Macron was one of the honoured guests at the Forum. He commented that “Russia must have a leading voice in the Council of Europe.” He also expressed the belief that Russia and the EU’s united approach to the inviolability of underlying multilateral agreements in international politics was a key factor for the world today.
Prime Minister of Japan Shinzō Abe commented, “The slogan of our Forum this year is ‘Building a Trust Economy.’ It is my belief that we can deem Japan and Russia as together engaged in building this economy of trust… We now stand at a historical turning point; the path we should take and efforts we should make are all entirely clear. It is working for future generations in Japan and Russia. It is Japan and Russia becoming a major force for safeguarding and fostering regional and global prosperity for the Japanese and Russian peoples, further deepening their relationship, mutual trust, concluding the peace treaty and building up lasting peace and stability between our two nations.”
Speaking at the Forum plenary session, Christine Lagarde, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund, noted that “Russia has put in place an admirable macroeconomic framework – saving for a rainy day, letting the exchange rate float, introducing inflation targeting, and shoring up the banking system.”
“This year, the Forum has come to resemble a crossroads of civilizations. Only at SPIEF has everything been put in place to ensure that discussions are open, as opposed to politically charged. It is where participants from various countries and growing economies discuss economic issues. There is no place in the world other than SPIEF that provides such an opportunity, which is why we have seen the numbers of participants grow from year to year,” said Anton Kobyakov.
During this year’s St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, over 3,000 flights arrived at and departed from Pulkovo Airport, including over 800 private flights. By way of comparison, SPIEF 2017 saw over 2,500 flights, including over 700 private flights.
The main programme incorporated over 150 business events across the Forum’s numerous venues. These events were split into four distinct themes: “Technology for Leadership,” “Harnessing Russia’s Growth Potential,” “Human Capital in the Digital Economy,” and “The Global Economy in an Era of Change.”
The Forum’s central event was the plenary session, featuring President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin. He commented: “Today what we need are not trade wars, or even temporary trade armistices, but rather a fully-fledged trading world. The slogan of this year’s Forum in St. Petersburg is ‘Building a Trust Economy’. I am convinced – and experience bears this out – that the role of trust as a factor affecting development will grow further.”
Events Held On the Eve of SPIEF
In the run-up to the FIFA World Cup, SPIEF held a special event entitled “From the First to the Twenty-First” for officials and business figures from Latin America and the Caribbean. In a ceremony broadcast live on Russia 24, television presenter Sergey Brilev handed a capsule of earth from the Estadio Centenario to the government of St. Petersburg. The Estadio Centenario in Montevideo (Uruguay) has a special place in global football history as the stadium that hosted the first World Cup in 1930.
23 May also saw the “Australia–Russia Business Re-connection: How and Why?” business breakfast take place for the first time. The event was organized by the Roscongress Foundation’s partners in Australia: the Australia–Russia Dialogue Forum and the ADC Forum. Later on, a business lunch took place entitled “Development of Trade and Economic Cooperation between the EAEU and ASEAN. Russia’s Role in the Process.” The event was attended by business representatives from EAEU and ASEAN.
The discussion platforms Russian Small and Medium-sized Enterprises Forum (SME Forum) organized by the Roscongress Foundation together with All-Russian Non-Governmental Organization of Small and Medium Business OPORA ROSSII and the SME Forum partner Russian Small and Medium Business Corporation saw lively debates on business practices, some of which were held in a new, interactive format. The topic of small and medium enterprise continued as part of the main SPIEF 2018 business programme.
This was the third year that issues related to women in business also took centre stage on the eve of SPIEF 2018. An international forum entitled “Increasing the Contribution of Women to Economic Growth and Prosperity: Creating an Enabling Environment” brought together around 200 female participants representing the Russian regions.
Elsewhere, the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Leningrad Region’s “Women as Leaders” conference saw animated discussions on the involvement of women in a changing economy.
The initial discussions on these topics will continue in just a few months’ time, with St. Petersburg hosting the Second Eurasian Women’s Forum on 21–22 September.
Officical SPIEF Programme
The official opening ceremony took place on the first day of the Forum – 24 May. Welcoming addresses were given by Governor of St. Petersburg Georgy Poltavchenko, and Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations Achim Steiner. Poltavchenko made assurances to Forum participants that Russia has been and will always remain a reliable partner.
In total, 68 business events took place that day in various formats. Topics under discussion included digitalization, the future of the labour market, energy, and a breakthrough in the Far East. Participants at the Valdai Discussion Club session focused on the effect the crisis in international relations is having on the global economy, and possible ways to resolve the standoff between Russia and the West. The first day ended with a discussion on smart cities.
Issues concerning international cooperation came under focus on the second day, which also saw a number of business dialogues between countries take place. Participants identified new opportunities for implementing joint projects, modern mechanisms by which to promote exports on overseas markets, and ways to cooperate on removing administrative barriers. The business programme for 25 May included 51 events. The highlight was the plenary session, featuring President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin, President of the French Republic Emmanuel Macron, Prime Minister of Japan Shinzō Abe, Vice President of the People’s Republic of China Wang Qishan, and Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund Christine Lagarde. Furthermore, country’s leaders conversed again during Russia–France and Russia–Japan bilateral dialogues. Additionally, Vladimir Putin met with the heads of world’s information agencies and a held a meeting with the leaders of international companies.
Events took place as panel sessions, roundtables, and business dialogues. They provided platforms by which leading specialists, experts, and politicians could discuss topics such as the resources and economy of the Global Ocean, the potential of the Arctic, and the in-demand technologies of the future.
The closing day of the Forum saw 41 events take place, including 22 events held as part of the International Youth Economic Forum – a permanent SPIEF fixture for the younger generation. The day began with a business breakfast for representatives of the IT industry. According to those present, as much as 20% of global GDP today is tied to digital transformation, making it perilous to underestimate its impact. On the same day, American Chamber of Commerce in Russia and EY unveiled the results of a joint study on trade and economic ties between Russia and the USA.
The B20 Regional Consultation Forum was a special event at SPIEF 2018, and saw participants discuss recommendations for G20 leaders for the forthcoming summit in Buenos Aires, which will take place this year from 30 November to 1 December.
In what has now become tradition, SPIEF hosted the presentation of the results of the Russian Regional Investment Climate Index for the fourth time. Tyumen Region climbed five places to convincingly take first position. Completing the top five were Moscow, Tatarstan, Leningrad Region, and Tula Region.
The Roscongress Foundation is a socially oriented non-financial development institution that puts a special emphasis on the health care in the Russian Federation, including improving the quality of life (creating the system of long-term care for senior citizens, developing palliative care in Russia, promoting healthy life style, etc.).
SPIEF 2018 held a number of sessions and interviews on increasing life expectancy that brought in representatives of the Government of the Russian Federation, as well as Russian and foreign experts.
Investing special effort in this area, the Roscongress Foundation strives to become the leading single platform for discussing national goals, objectives and priorities to improve the quality of life in Russia (in accordance with Executive Order of the President of the Russian Federation “On National Goals and Strategic Objectives for Development of the Russian Federation through to 2024” dated 7 May 2018).
The global character of SPIEF was made even more apparent – and the communication platform even more attractive for talks – by the number of major projects and agreements that took shape. As of 30 May, 593 agreements had been signed at SPIEF, worth a total of RUB 2.625 trillion (counting agreements where the figures were not classified as commercial secrets).
The biggest of these were the following:
- A strategic cooperation agreement between Rosneft, Vnesheconombank and VEB Leasing worth up to RUB 400 billion for financing projects and providing leasing services.
- An agreement of intent between the Eurasian Development Bank and Belkomur Interregional Company to form a syndicated loan of up to RUB 278 billion to fund the construction of the Belkomur railway line.
- Several long-term contracts with a total value of USD 2.1 billion between Rosneft and 12 importing companies based in Mongolia for the supply of petrol and diesel fuel.
- An agreement worth USD 1.5 billion to construct a natural gas processing plant in the town of Ust-Luga (Leningrad Region), signed by the Russian Direct Investment Fund, the Japanese company Marubeni Corporation, the Baltic Gas Chemical Company, and Invasta Capital. The plant, which will convert natural gas to methanol, will have a capacity of 1.7 million tonnes per year.
- An agreement between Nizhnekamskneftekhim and Deutsche Bank (Germany) to open a credit line of EUR 807 million, to be provided by a consortium of five European banks.
In addition, the Roscongress Foundation signed cooperation agreements with the Association of Lawyers of Russia and 21 Russian federal subjects: the Leningrad, Kaliningrad, Kirov, Murmansk, Novgorod, Penza, Pskov, Rostov, Ryazan, Samara, Saratov, Sverdlovsk, Tver, Tomsk, and Chelyabinsk Regions, and the Republics of Adygea, Altai, Buryatia, Karachaevo-Cherkess, Crimea, and Khakassia. The aim of the agreements is to build collaboration between the parties on raising the investment attractiveness and export potential of the regions.
The Roscongress Foundation’s international partner network is continuing to increase. SPIEF 2018 saw the signing of agreements with the Association of European Businesses; the Federation Of Pakistan Chambers Of Commerce & Industry; the Union of Chinese Entrepreneurs in Russia; the ASEAN Business Club, the Norwegian-Russian Chamber of Commerce; the Mexican Business Council for Foreign Trade, Investment and Technology (COMCE); the General Confederation of Entrepreneurs of Argentina; the Croatian Chamber of Economy; the Israeli Russian Business Council; the Polish Investment and Trade Agency; the Ladies in the Frontline business association, MEDEF International; the Boao Forum for Asia; the Moscow Centre for International Cooperation; and the Centre for the Development of Women’s Entrepreneurship.
A number of agreements with charity and socially oriented organizations has been signed as part of a plan to develop the social platform launched by the Roscongress Foundation.
The agreements cover cooperation within the social development sphere.
Additionally, agreements have been signed with sports organizations, such as the Russian Golf Association and the Golf Estate Management Company. This cooperation will focus on running sporting programmes for economic forums, including golf tournaments held at Peterhof Golf Club under the aegis of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum to promote sport, both in the corporate sphere and among the general public.
Other organizations to sign cooperation agreements with Roscongress were the Central Union of Consumer Societies of the Russian Federation; the Boris Yeltsin Presidential Library; Rosconcert; Rostelecom; VSK; MZS and Partners; the Deposit Insurance Agency; the Water Supply and Treatment Cluster Management Company in St. Petersburg; SVEKO FSUE; and Electrificatciya PJC.
In 2019 under the auspices of the United Nations Organization Russia will host the Global Manufacturing and Industrialization Summit (GMIS). The event will take place at the INNOPROM venue in Yekaterinburg. The appropriate agreement has been signed during SPIEF 2018.
Importantly, an agreement was signed between the management of the Made in Russia national brand and Novgorod Region to work together on promoting the Novgorod Rus regional brand. An agreement with Zenden Group will result in the establishment of Made in Russia’s first regional office, also in Novgorod Region.
International Youth Economic Forum (IYEF)
Following the decree of the President of the Russian Federation on establishing an on-going youth platform during SPIEF, the Forum hosted the International Youth Economic Forum (IYEF) organized by the Roscongress Foundation and the Federal Agency on Youth Affairs (Rosmolodezh). During the event young leaders of local and international business discussed contemporary challenges and awarded the winners of the All-Russia competition My Country – My Russia.
IYEF brought together graduate and post-graduate students from more than 15 Russian universities, including St. Petersburg State University, Moscow State Institute of International Relations, Higher School of Economics, National University of Science and Technology MISIS, Russian Social University, People’s Friendship University of Russia, St. Petersburg State University of Economics, etc.
The youth platform created by the Roscongress Foundation together with partners allows future managers to take part in the forum with no participation fee. They get a chance to network with big business representatives and hear their success stories. Direct communication between different generations helps raise future entrepreneurs, foster international relations, and get acquainted with potential employers. Within the next five to ten years the entrepreneurs return to the Forum as new participants ready to share their experience, eager to represent their company on the international level, and take part in the international global processes.
A great example of SPIEF 2018 of the latter is presence of opinion leaders from academic, business and media environments from G20, BRICS and EEU invited by the Russian Centre for Promotion of Internal Initiatives supported by the Roscongress Foundation and the Government of St. Petersburg. Among them were the participants of the meeting of President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin with youth G20 leaders at SPIEF 2013. During this brief period they managed to find their way in politics and business and now they head various youth, research and civic organizations. Five years later young leaders meet in St. Petersburg again.
Youth agenda at SPIEF 2018 included meetings with officials, representatives of international companies, members of business communities, and experts. Young leaders of G20 and EEU held a series of brainstorms about the place Russian economy occupies in the global world, and about the future of digital economy. Additionally, they discussed creating a youth entrepreneurial network that would help develop horizontal interaction of G20 and EEU young leaders, as well promote business projects among the SME participants.
Finding Fulcrum to Move the World Economics
Where hidden is the fulcrum to bring about new global-age thinking and escape current mysterious economic models that primarily support super elitism, super-richness, super tax-free heavens and super crypto nirvanas; global populace only drifts today as disconnected wanderers at the bottom carrying flags of ‘hate-media’ only creating tribal herds slowly pushed towards populism. Suppose, if we accept the current indices already labeled as success as the best of show of hands, the game is already lost where winners already left the table. Finding a new fulcrum to move the world economies on a better trajectory where human productivity measured for grassroots prosperity is a critically important but a deeply silent global challenge. Here are some bold suggestions
ONE- Global Measurement: World connectivity is invisible, grossly misunderstood, miscalculated and underestimated of its hidden powers; spreading silently like an invisible net, a “new math” becomes the possible fulcrum for the new business world economy; behold the ocean of emerging global talents from new economies, mobilizing new levels of productivity, performance and forcing global shifts of economic powers. Observe the future of borderless skills, boundary less commerce and trans-global public opinion, triangulation of such will simply crush old thinking.
Archimedes yelled, “…give me a lever long enough and a fulcrum on which to place it, and I shall move the world…”
After all, half of the world during the last decade, missed the entrepreneurial mindset, understoodonly as underdog players of the economy, the founders, job-creators and risk-taker entrepreneurs of small medium businesses of the world, pushed aside while kneeling to big business staged as institutionalized ritual. Although big businesses are always very big, nevertheless, small businesses and now globally accepted, as many times larger. Study deeply, why suddenly now the small medium business economy, during the last budgetary cycles across the world, has now become the lone solution to save dwindling economies. Big business as usual will take care of itself, but national economies already on brink left alone now need small business bases and hard-core raw entrepreneurialism as post-pandemic recovery agendas.
TWO – Ground Realities: National leadership is now economic leadership, understanding, creating and managing, super-hyper-digital-platform-economies a new political art and mobilization of small midsize business a new science: The prerequisites to understand the “new math” is the study of “population-rich-nations and knowledge rich nations” on Google and figure out how and why can a national economy apply such new math.
Today a USD $1000 investment in technology buys digital solutions, which were million dollars, a decade ago.Today,a $1000 investment buys on global-age upskilling on export expansion that were million dollars a decade ago. Today, a $1000 investment on virtual-events buys what took a year and cost a million dollars a decade ago. Today, any micro-small-medium-enterprise capable of remote working models can save 80% of office and bureaucratic costs and suddenly operate like a mini-multi-national with little or no additional costs.
Apply this math to population rich nations and their current creation of some 500 million new entrepreneurial businesses across Asia will bring chills across the world to the thousands of government departments, chambers of commerce and trade associations as they compare their own progress. Now relate this to the economic positioning of ‘knowledge rich nations’ and explore how they not only crushed their own SME bases, destroyed the middle class but also their expensive business education system only produced armies of resumes promoting job-seekers but not the mighty job-creators. Study why entrepreneurialism is neither academic-born nor academic centric, it is after all most successful legendary founders that created earth shattering organizations were only dropouts. Now shaking all these ingredients well in the economic test tube wait and let all this ferment to see what really happens.
Now picking up any nation, selecting any region and any high potential vertical market; searching any meaningful economic development agenda and status of special skills required to serve such challenges, paint new challenges. Interconnect the dots on skills, limits on national/global exposure and required expertise on vertical sectors, digitization and global-age market reach. Measuring the time and cost to bring them at par, measuring the opportunity loss over decades for any neglect. Combining all to squeeze out a positive transformative dialogue and assemble all vested parties under one umbrella.
Not to be confused with academic courses on fixing Paper-Mache economies and broken paper work trails, chambers primarily focused on conflict resolutions, compliance regulations, and trade groups on policy matters. Mobilization of small medium business economy is a tactical battlefield of advancements of an enterprise, as meritocracy is the nightmarish challenges for over 100 plus nations where majority high potential sectors are at standstill on such affairs. Surprisingly, such advancements are mostly not new funding hungry but mobilization starved. Economic leadership teams of today, unless skilled on intertwining super-hyper-digital-platform-economic agendas with local midsize businesses and creating innovative excellence to stand up to global competitiveness becomes only a burden to growth.
The magnifying glass of mind will find the fulcrum: High potential vertical sectors and special regions are primarily wide-open lands full of resources and full of talented peoples; mobilization of such combinations offering extraordinary power play, now catapulted due to technologies. However, to enter such arenas calls for regimented exploring of the limits of digitization, as Digital-Divides are Mental Divides, only deeper understanding and skills on how to boost entrepreneurialism and attract hidden talents of local citizenry will add power. Of course, knowing in advance, what has already failed so many times before will only avoid using a rubber hose as a lever, again.
The new world economic order: There is no such thing as big and small as it is only strong and weak, there is no such thing as rich and poor it is only smart and stupid. There is no such thing as past and future is only what is in front now and what is there to act but if and or when. How do you translate this in a post pandemic recovery mode? Observe how strong, smart moving now are advancing and leaving weak, stupid dreaming of if and when in the dust behind.
The conclusion: At the risk of never getting a Nobel Prize on Economics, here is this stark claim; any economy not driven solely based on measuring “real value creation” but primarily based on “real value manipulation” is nothing but a public fraud. This mathematically proven, possibly a new Fulcrum to move the world economy, in need of truth
The rest is easy
Evergrande Crisis and the Global Economy
China’s crackdown on the tech giants was not much of a surprise. Sure, the communist regime allowed the colossus entities like Alibaba Group to innovate and prosper for years. Yet, the government control over the markets was never concealed. In fact, China’s active intervention in the forex market to deliberately devalue Yuan was frequently contested around the world. Ironically, now the world awaits government intervention as a global liquidity crisis seems impending. The Evergrande Group, China’s largest property developer, is on the brink of collapse. Mounding debt, unfinished properties, and subsequent public pressure eventually pushed the group to openly admit its financial turmoil last week. Subsequently, Evergrande’s shares plunged as much as 19% to more than 11-year lows. While many anticipate a thorough financial restructuring in the forthcoming months, the global debt markets face a broader financial contagion – as long as China deliberates on its plan of action.
The financial trouble of the conglomerate became apparent when President Xi Jinping stressed upon controlled corporate debt levels in his ongoing drive to reign China’s corporate behemoths. It is estimated that the Evergrande Group currently owes $305 billion in outstanding debt; payments on its offshore bonds due this week. With new channels of debt ceased throughout the Mainland, repayment seems doubtful despite reassurances from the company officials. The broader cause of worry, however, is the impact of a default; which seems highly likely under current circumstances.
The residential property market and the real estate market control roughly 20% and 30% of China’s nominal GDP respectively. A default could destabilize the already slowing Chinese economy. Yet that’s half the truth. In reality, the failure of a ‘too big to fail’ company could bleed into other sectors as well. And while China could let the company fail to set a precedent, the spillover could devastate the financial stability hard-earned after a strenuous battle against the pandemic. Recent data shows that with the outbreak of the delta variant, the demand pressure in China has significantly cooled down while the energy prices are through the roof. Coupled with the regulatory crackdown rapidly pervading uncertainty, a debt crisis could further push the economy into a recession: a detrimental end to China’s aspirations to attract global investors.
The real question, therefore, is not about China’s willingness to bail out the company. Too much is at stake. The primal question is regarding the modus operandi which could be adopted by China to upend instability.
Naturally, the influence of China’s woes parallels its effect on the global economy. A possible liquidity crisis and the opaque measures of the government combined are already affecting the global markets: particularly the United States. The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) posted a dismal end to Monday’s trading session: declining by more than 600 points. The 10-year Treasury yields slipped down 6.4 basis points to 1.297% as investors sought safety amid uncertainty. The concern is regarding China’s route to solve the issue and the timeline it would adopt. While the markets across Europe and Asia are optimistic about a partial settlement of debt payments, a take over from state-owned enterprises could further drive uncertainty; majorly regarding the pay schedule of western bondholders amid political hostility.
Economists believe that, while a financial crisis doesn’t seem like a plausible threat, a delayed response or a clumsy reaction could permeate volatility in the capital markets globally. Furthermore, a default or a takeover would almost certainly pull down China’s economy. While the US has already turned stringent over Chinese IPOs recently, a debt default could puncture the economic viability of a wide array of Chinese companies around the world. And thus, while the global banking system is not at an immediate threat of a Lehman catastrophe, Evergrande’s bankruptcy would, nonetheless, erode both the domestic and the global housing market. Moreover, it would further dent Chinese imports (and seriously damage regional exchequers), and would ultimately put a damper on global economic recovery from the pandemic.
Economy Contradicts Democracy: Russian Markets Boom Amid Political Sabotage
The political game plan laid by the Russian premier Vladimir Putin has proven effective for the past two decades. Apart from the systemic opposition, the core critics of the Kremlin are absent from the ballot. And while a competitive pretense is skilfully maintained, frontrunners like Alexei Navalny have either been incarcerated, exiled, or pushed against the metaphorical wall. All in all, United Russia is ahead in the parliamentary polls and almost certain to gain a veto-proof majority in State Duma – the Russian parliament. Surprisingly, however, the Russian economy seems unperturbed by the active political manipulation of the Kremlin. On the contrary, the Russian markets have already established their dominance in the developing world as Putin is all set to hold his reign indefinitely.
The Russian economy is forecasted to grow by 3.9% in 2021. The pandemic seems like a pained tale of history as the markets have strongly rebounded from the slump of 2020. The rising commodity prices – despite worrisome – have edged the productivity of the Russian raw material giants. The gains in ruble have gradually inched higher since January, while the current account surplus has grown by 3.9%. Clearly, the manufacturing mechanism of Moscow has turned more robust. Primarily because the industrial sector has felt little to no jitters of both domestic and international defiance. The aftermath of the arrest of Alexei Navalny wrapped up dramatically while the international community couldn’t muster any resistance beyond a handful of sanctions. The Putin regime managed to harness criticism and allegations while deftly sketching a blueprint to extend its dominance.
The ideal ‘No Uncertainty’ situation has worked wonders for the Russian Bourse and the bond market. The benchmark MOEX index (Moscow Exchange) has rallied by 23% in 2021 – the strongest performance in the emerging markets. Moreover, the fixed income premiums have dropped to record lows; Russian treasury bonds offering the best price-to-earning ratio in the emerging markets. The main reason behind such a bustling market response could be narrowed down to one factor: growing investor confidence.
According to Bloomberg’s data, the Russian Foreign Exchange reserves are at their record high of $621 billion. And while the government bonds’ returns hover at a mere 1.48%, the foreign ownership of treasury bonds has inflated above 20% for the second time this year. The investors are confident that a significant political shuffle is not on cards as Putin maintains a tight hold over Kremlin. Furthermore, investors do not perceive the United States as an active deterrent to Russia – at least in the near term. The notion was further exacerbated when the Biden administration unilaterally dropped sanctions from the Nord Stream 2 pipeline project. And while Europe and the US remain sympathetic with the Kremlin critics, large economies like Germany have clarified their economic position by striking lucrative deals amid political pressure. It is apparent that while Europe is conflicted after Brexit, even the US faces much more pressing issues in the guise of China and Afghanistan. Thus, no active international defiance has all but bolstered the Kremlin in its drive to gain foreign investments.
Another factor at work is the overly hawkish Russian Central Bank (RCB). To tame inflation – currency raging at an annual rate of 6.7% – the RCB hiked its policy rate to 6.75% from the all-time low of 4.25%. The RCB has raised its policy rate by a cumulative 250 basis points in four consecutive hikes since January which has all but attracted the investors to jump on the bandwagon. However, inflation is proving to be sturdy in the face of intermittent rate hikes. And while Russian productivity is enjoying a smooth run, failure of monetary policy tools could just as easily backfire.
While political dissent or international sanctions remain futile, inflation is the prime enemy which could detract the Russian economy. For years Russia has faced a sharp decline in living standards, and despite commendable fiscal management of the Kremlin, such a steep rise in prices is an omen of a financial crisis. Moreover, the unemployment rates have dropped to record low levels. However, the labor shortage is emerging as another facet that could plausibly ignite the wage-price spiral. Further exacerbating the threat of inflation are the $9.6 billion pre-election giveaways orchestrated by President Putin to garner more support for his United Russia party. Such a tremendous demand pressure could presumably neutralize the aggressive tightening of the monetary policy by the RCB. Thus, while President Putin sure is on a definitive path of immortality on the throne of the Kremlin, surging inflation could mark a return of uncertainty, chip away investors’ confidence: eventually putting a brake on the economic streak.
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