Russian economic recovery under way in April despite sanctions

Introduction — June 17, 2018

View from my hotel on a grey and misty Moscow day. Click to enlarge

Moscow skyline on a grey and misty day in May 2017. Click to enlarge

Having been in Moscow last month I can confidently say that Russia’s economy appears to be ticking over nicely.
I have been visiting Russia for fifteen years now, since Putin first consolidated his position in the Kremlin, and in that time I’ve seen a steady improvement in life for the average Russian.
Admittedly I’m no economics expert so this is based on what I’ve seen at first hand and everything tells me that the economy isn’t just robust but gradually improving.
For example there is a wider range of foods available in supermarkets and they are of better quality than when I first visited Moscow in 2003. The same applies to other consumer goods like clothing while the infrastructure — in public transport and banking — seems to be more efficiently run and better maintained.
A headline in today’s Telegraph “Why you shouldn’t write off Russia’s economy – despite bad relations with the West, it’s deceptively resilient” underlines this point. The World Bank is also predicting accelerated economic growth for Russia.
So ignore those dire predictions about Russia’s economy being stagnant. I have every confidence that Russia’s future is bright and not just economically. In the fields of scientific advancement, culturally and in terms of national self-confidence Russia’s stars are in the ascendent.
In fact I believe that Russia now stands where Britain stood at the end of the American War of Independence. That was in 1783 and far from going into decline the British Empire was about to enter its most sustained period of growth with the defeat of Napoleon at Waterloo in 1815.
Scientific advances and growth in industrial output and infrastructure, coupled with an expansion of its overseas territories gave Britain the prefix Great Britain.
This resonates with some old Slavic folklore which foretells of three great empires. The first being in Rome, the second being centred in London while the third and final empire would be governed from Moscow.
This is further echoed in the predictions of the blind Bulgarian clairvoyant Baba Yanga, who in her old age foretold of “Vladimir’s glory, glory of Russia”.  
“Nobody can stop Russia,” the blind seer told writer Valentin Sidorov in 1979.
“All will be removed by her from the way and not only will be kept, but also becomes the lord of the world.
And note how Baba Yanga speaks of “Vladimir’s glory”. That was in 1979, she couldn’t possibly have been referring to Vladimir Putin could she? Ed.
Putin's annual phone-in where he answers questions from Russians who phone in. Click to enlarge

Putin’s annual phone-in where he answers questions from Russians on live TV. Do you think Theresa May or Donald Trump will consider doing anything like this? Click to enlarge

Russian economic recovery under way in April despite sanctions

Andrey Astoukh — Reuters May 22, 2018

Retail sales in Russia picked up in April, while real wages growth exceeded expectations as the unemployment rate fell, suggesting an economic recovery was underway, according to data released on Tuesday.

The monthly set of data released by the Federal Statistics Service, or Rosstat, indicated that sanctions that the United States imposed on Moscow in early April had little immediate impact on Russia’s fundamentals.

After two years of recession caused by a slump in oil prices and Western sanctions, the Russian economy is now recovering along with oil, the rouble has generally stabilized and global commodity prices remain favorable for an economy dependent on exports of energy and raw materials.

Retail sales, the key gauge for consumer demand, the primary driver of economic growth, were up 2.4 percent year-on-year in April after a 2.0 percent rise in the year to March.

Capital investment, the next most important driver, was up 3.6 percent year-on-year in the first quarter after increasing 1.4 percent in the same period a year earlier.

“The latest Russian activity figures suggest that GDP growth picked up to about 1.5 percent year-on-year at the start of the second quarter,” the research firm Capital Economics said in a note.

“These data also provide early evidence that the tightening of U.S. sanctions and the fall in the ruble in early April have had little impact on the real economy so far.”

Kirill Tremasov, a former head of macroeconomic forecasting department at the Economy Ministry, said on his Telegram channel that Tuesday’s set of data suggested annual GDP growth stood at 1.5 percent in April.

This year, the economy is projected to expand by 1.5-2.0 percent, according to the central bank’s forecasts, after growing by 1.5 percent in 2017.

Real wages, which are adjusted for inflation, rose 7.8 percent year-on-year in April, beating analysts’ call for a 5.9 percent increase.

At the same time, the unemployment rate inched lower to 4.9 percent in April, its lowest since August 2017, from 5.0 percent in March.