Russia – a modest recovery after a more limited slowdown?

Wednesday, January 13th, 2021

Also Russia was – and still is – sharply hit by covid-19. For this reason, nobody should be surprised that Russian GDP has shrunk in 2020, probably by 3 ½ % – 4 % (will be published on February 3). This annual fall of GDP looks, however less dramatic than in most other European countries.

But how strong will a Russian rebound of GDP growth turn out to be – hopefully already in 2021? More than the generally expected growth rate of 2.5 – 3% which may be even less than predicted or possible EU growth? The development of covid-19 cases/vaccinations and GDP growth of the EU and China will play an important role in the Russian growth context for the year to come – but also the future political relations between the Biden administration and Russia.

In 2020, April and May were shocking months when GDP growth declined by 9.5 and by 8.9 % (yoy). During the following months, GDP drops stayed at around 4 %; the latest available number showed a decline by 3.7 % in November 2020 (yes, the Russian Ministry of Economic Development publishes monthly GDP numbers).

Slight signs of recovery and a recommendation

At the end of 2020, there were signs of a slight recovery in Russian industry when comparing with previous months but not yet when relating to the development one year earlier. Retail sales recovered visibly from late spring to the end of summer but have been stagnating again in the past few months (mom). A new and indicating number for consumer confidence during Q4 will be published on January 18.

As a major reason for concern remains the development of fixed investments, last year clearly under the level of 2010 (like, for example, Brazil). This negative investment trend must be reversed if Russia ever should become able to enter a promising structural trend of its growth potential. A better investment performance could also lead to more diversification of products, also of those for exports in order to decrease the dependence on exports of energy (commodity) products.

Finally, I recommend my readers to regularly follow the illuminating weekly reports of the Finnish BOFIT Institute (The Bank of Finland Institute for Emerging Economies) which is linked to the central bank of Finland (Bank of Finland). BOFIT also prepares interesting forecasts on the Russian (and Chinese) economy

Hubert Fromlet
Affiliate Professor at the School of Business and Economics, Linnaeus University
Editorial board


Back to Start Page

Russia – visible disparities in regional growth

Wednesday, April 3rd, 2019

Many countries in the world are characterized by regional production and growth disparities, both when it comes to advanced and to emerging market countries. Sometimes regional growth statistics may be characterized by good quality, sometimes the quality of officially calculated growth numbers seems to be less illuminating. Regional disparities can also mean different conditions for (foreign) corporate investors what concerns demand and size of the market (for sales), wage levels (for production costs) and educational quality (for access to human resources, better innovation and research and, thus, corporate development).

Regional developments in China and Russia

In China, for example, the addition of all provincial growth results mostly shows higher accumulated economic growth rates than the corresponding weighted numbers for China as a whole. The reason for this discrepancy is frequently explained by better possibilities for the professional promotion of provincial political leaders when good economic results can be shown for the own geographical area of responsibility. Obviously, the central political leadership tries now to change this approach (somewhat), for example by considering environmental improvements as well. However, more exact results in this specific approach still seem to be unknown – at least to me.

Recently, I found very interesting results for the economic performance of Russian regions, published by BOFIT (The Bank of Finland Institute for Countries in Transition) and originated at the Russian Federal State Statistics Service (Rosstat). The graph published in the link above shows clearly the outstanding positive role of Moscow, the Moscow and the Central region, also compared to St. Petersburg and to the North-West region and even more clearly compared to the Volga and Ural regions. Despite visible improvements in manufacturing production and investments, retail sales still remain sluggish almost over the whole country after the sharp drop in 2015 – with the Moscow region giving a brighter picture also here.

One can also single out by these statistics that the above-mentioned regions counted in 2018 for 81 percent of all Russian manufacturing production and for 70 percent of all fixed investments and retail sales – which certainly can give some guidance for (foreign) corporate planning.

It could be added that BOFIT publishes a lot of interesting news and research, particularly on China and Russia. I never omit their BOFIT Weekly and their other publications.

Hubert Fromlet
Affiliate Professor at the School of Business and Economics, Linnaeus University
Editorial board

Back to Start Page 

Russia’s Economic Growth will be much Slower in the Future

Wednesday, April 1st, 2015

During the boom years between 2000 and 2008, Russian GDP grew by almost 7.5% per annum. This boom was caused by two interlinked factors: The global economy was growing at a very rapid pace, and the price of crude oil rose throughout the period. When the financial crisis hit major parts of the world, Russia’s economy was badly affected along with everybody else, but subsequently Russian growth has been slower than before the crisis. In addition, Russian GDP growth has decelerated almost continuously from 2011 onwards. (Figure 1)

Figure 1 Russia’s GDP growth

Source: Rosstat and own calculations

There was no obvious single reason for this slowdown, but some important factors should be noted. First, Russia’s working-age population had started to decrease, which automatically slows down GDP growth, ceteris paribus. Second, Russia’s fixed capital investment remained low, between 21% and 22% of GDP after the global financial crisis. While this would not be problematic for a country like, say, Germany, Russia’s investment ratio remained much below rapidly growing emerging market countries. Third, growth in productivity had become much slower already before the global financial crisis (Voskoboynikov and Solanko, 2014). Last, the price of oil remained high, but it did not increase as it did between 2000 and 2008.

Deryugina and Ponomarenko (2014) use a large Bayesian VAR model to assess the relative importance of various macroeconomic factors in explaining the evolution of Russia’s GDP. They find that the oil price together with demand from the EU are enough to forecast and explain most of the short-run movements in Russian GDP. Rautava (2013) notes a similar dependence on the price of oil. Even more interestingly, he notes that Russia’s trend growth halved to approximately 2% after the global financial crisis.

Role of oil

It is difficult to overstate the importance of energy prices for the Russian economy. Crude oil, oil products and natural gas brought 70% of Russia’s export revenue in 2014, and the energy sector provides the Russian Federation with more than 50% of its tax intake. Figure 2 illustrates the tight connection between the price of oil and Russia’s exchange rate.

Even after the introduction of sanctions in July, the Russian currency and financial markets remained relatively calm, but the rouble started its steep depreciation when the price of oil plummeted. Connection works in the other direction as well, of course. When the price of oil stabilized and recovered somewhat in February and March, 2015, the rouble reacted in the same direction as well.

Long-run growth slower than before

Unfortunately, Russia’s long-run growth prospects are not very rosy either, especially in comparison to the development in the recent years. We know very well about the evolution of the working-age population during the next 20 years, as almost all people coming into working-age have already been born. According to the UN prediction, Russia’s working-age population will decline from 90.7 million in 2015 to 78.7 million in 2035, which translates into -0.7% change annually on average.

Figure 2 Price of crude oil and the rouble

Even if one assumes that the capital stock will grow somewhat – say by 0.3% per annum, which is higher than recently – for the next twenty years, and total factor productivity also rises at a relatively rapid – but decelerating – pace, Russia’s GDP growth will be below 2% for the next twenty years (Table 1). This is clearly below what Russians have become used to in recent years. Also, Russia’s share of global GDP continues to decline. Moreover, Russia’s growth needs to be driven by total factor productivity. Voskoboynikov and Solanko (2014) estimate that it grew by 2.5% per annum between 1995 and 2008. Therefore, keeping Russia’s growth relatively fast at higher income levels might be difficult.

Table 1 Baseline scenario for Russian growth




Deryugina, Elena and Alexey Ponomarenko (2014). A large Bayesian vector autoregression model for Russia. BOFIT Discussion Paper 22/2014.

Rautava, Jouko (2013) Oil Prices, Excess Uncertainty and Trend Growth – A Forecasting Model for Russia’s Economy. Focus on European Economic Integration. Q4/13, Oesterreichische Nationalbank.

Voskoboynikov, Ilya and Laura Solanko (2014). When high growth is not enough: Rethinking Russia’s pre-crisis economic performance. BOFIT Policy Brief 6/2014.









Iikka Korhonen
Head of Bofit (Institute for Economies in Transition) at the Bank of Finland

Back to Start page