Russia: A Victim to Transition or to the Financial Crisis?
The global financial crisis has revealed deficiencies of the Russian economic system which are caused by the path of the transformation from central planning to the market economy, and not only attributable to the downfall of crude oil prices. While the worldwide liquidity crunch impaired the availability of loans to enterprises, the situation in Russia has deteriorated especially by the large exposure of the private sector to short-term foreign liabilities and by the one-sided orientation of the economy relying on the natural resources industry. Until the mid-2008, the foreign debt of the private banks and non-banks had increased strongly and had strengthened the dependence of the Russian economy on the developments on the international financial markets. The Ruble devaluation at the end of January 2009 aggravated the situation. The high short-term foreign debt of the private sector and the dependence on exports of natural resources are typical outcomes of the Russian transformation path. Therefore, on the one hand, the banking sector has not being able to satisfy financing demand of the private sector beyond the natural resources industries, enterprises became forced to borrow short-term money abroad. On the other hand, the economic strategy of the past seventeen years has strengthened the influence of the state on the natural resources sector – with the strong priority to develop it further. Hence, the one-sided economic development negatively affects the adaptability of the real-economic sector to change during the crisis period. In essence, the present political preferences of the government are aimed at providing direct financial assistance and at protectionist measures. In the long run, these actions could lead to stronger intervention of the state in the economy. Due to these recent developments, the crisis is likely to continue in Russia longer than in the other transformation countries.