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16 Sep, 2009 18:30

Russia sets sails to emerge from recession

Russia’s top government officials - responsible for the anti-crisis strategy gave parliament an update on Wednesday.

The worst has passed, and better days are ahead.

From the start of the financial crunch the Russian economy fell harder than expected – shrinking more than 10% this year. Now with cautious optimism the First Deputy Prime Minister, Igor Shuvalov, says there are green shoots across the economy – industry is recovering and the banks are likely to boost lending.

“There continue to be considerable problems with lending to the real sector of the economy, although the situation is starting to improve gradually and loan portfolios are expected to grow in the fall. Perhaps, they won't increase as much as in the pre-crisis period, but banks are currently starting to lend to the economy, including because of the active measures taken to offer government guarantees.”

The government says it has prevented a deeper recession – but at a price. Late last year, due to massive outflows of deposits, the Central Bank started unsecured lending to provide banks with liquidity. According to Sergei Ignatiev, Chairman of the Central Bank of Russia, that can be scaled back.

“Now that our economy is emerging from the crisis, unsecured lending should be curtailed and replaced by other more traditional refinancing instruments and other loan resources.”

Finance Minister Aleksey Kudrin says post-crisis Russia should develop its internal financial markets. The Russian government has already amended the 2010-2012 budget accounting for higher oil and gas revenues and better GDP growth. Unicredit Securities Chief Economist, Vladimir Osakovsky, says those revenues should be used to cut the deficit rather than boost spending.

“The government has spent a lot of money on anti-crisis measures and they really helped somebody. But from the macroeconomic level the major support came from outside world. The global economy is starting to recover.CUT. These external factors have actually helped Russia to pull out of recession much more than the government effort actually.”

However the most recent economic indicators remain mixed. Industrial production fell 3% in August as car producers closed plants for part of the month. Economists expect stronger output figures in September with the full economic recovery to be reached only in 2012.