Many important economic changes have occurred over the past two years and many have occurred in the past two months. Almost all economic events create winners and losers and that is no different for the Russian economy and the Russian population.
There is an interesting article plus videos on the BBC News website (see link below), which consider some of the economic events that, directly or indirectly, have had an impact on Russia: the fall in oil prices; the conflict between Russia and the Ukraine; the fall in the value of the rouble (see chart); the sanctions imposed by the West.
Clearly there are some very large links between events, but an interesting question concerns the impact they have had on the everyday Russian consumer and business. Economic growth in Russia has been adversely affected and estimates suggest that the economy will shrink further over the coming year. Oil and gas prices have declined significantly and while this is good news for many consumers across the world, it brings much sadder tidings for an economy, such as Russia, that is so dependent on oil exports.
However, is there a bright side to the sanctions or the falling currency? The BBC News article considers the winners and losers in Russia, including families struggling to feed their families following spending cuts and businesses benefiting from less competition.
Russia’s economic turmoil: nightmare or opportunity? BBC News, Olga Ivshina and Oleg Bodyrev (5/2/15)
- Why has the rouble fallen in value? Use a demand and supply diagram to illustrate this.
- What does a cheap rouble mean for exporters and importers within Russia and within countries such as the UK or US?
- One of the businesses described in the article explain how the sanctions have helped. What is the explanation and can the effects be seen as being in the consumer’s interest?
- Oil prices have fallen significantly over the past few months. Why is this so detrimental to Russia?
- What is the link between the exchange rate and inflation?
One of the reasons why it is so hard to forecast economic growth and other macroeconomic indicators is that economies can be affected by economic shocks. Sometimes the effects of shocks are large. The problem with shocks is that, by their very nature, they are unpredictable or hard to predict.
A case in point is the current crisis in Ukraine. First there was the uprising in Kiev, the ousting of President Yanukovich and the formation of a new government. Then there was the seizing of the Crimean parliament by gunmen loyal to Russia. The next day, Saturday March 1, President Putin won parliamentary approval to invade Ukraine and Russian forces took control of the Crimea.
On Monday 3 March, stock markets fell around the world. The biggest falls were in Russia (see chart). In other stock markets, the size of the falls was directly related to the closeness of trade ties with Russia. The next day, with a degree of calm descending on the Crimea and no imminent invasion by Russia of other eastern parts of Ukraine, stock markets rallied.
What will happen to countries’ economies depends on what happens as the events unfold. There could be a continuing uneasy peace, with the West effectively accepting, despite protests, the Russian control of the Crimea. But what if Russia invades eastern Ukraine and tries to annex it to Russia or promote its being run as a separate country? What if the West reacted strongly by sending in troops? What if the reaction were simply sanctions? That, of course would depend on the nature of those sanctions.
Some of the possibilities could have serious effects on the world economy and especially the Russian economy and the economies of those with strong economic ties to Russia, such as those European countries relying heavily on gas and oil imports from Russia through the pipeline network.
Economists are often criticised for poor forecasts. But when economic shocks can have large effects and when they are hard to predict by anyone, not just economists, then it is hardly surprising that economic forecasts are sometimes highly inaccurate.
What Wall Street is watching in Ukraine crisis USA Today (3/3/14)
Ukraine’s economic shock waves – magnitude uncertain Just Auto, Dave Leggett (7/3/14)
Ukraine: The end of the beginning? The Economist (8/3/14)
Russia will bow to economic pressure over Ukraine, so the EU must impose it The Guardian, Guy Verhofstadt (6/3/14)
Russia paying price for Ukraine crisis CNN Money, Mark Thompson (6/3/14)
Ukraine Crimea: Russia’s economic fears BBC News, Nikolay Petrov (7/3/14)
How Russia’s conflict with Ukraine threatens vital European trade links The Telegraph, Szu Ping Chan (8/3/14)
Will a Russian invasion of Ukraine push the west into an economic war? Channel 4 News, Paul Mason (2/3/14)
Who loses from punishing Russia? BBC News, Robert Peston (4/3/14)
Should Crimea be leased to Russia? BBC News, Robert Peston (7/3/14)
The Ukraine Economic Crisis Counter Punch, Jack Rasmus (7-9/3/14)
UK price rise exposes failure to prepare for food and fuel shocks The Guardian, Phillip Inman (2/3/14)
- What sanctions could the West realistically impose on Russia?
- How would sanctions against Russia affect (a) the Russian economy and (b) the economies of those applying the sanctions?
- Which industries would be most affected by sanctions against Russia?
- Is Russia likely to bow to economic pressure from the West?
- Should Crimea be leased to Russia?
- Is the behaviour of stock markets a good indication of people’s expectations about the real economy?
- Identify some other economic shocks (positive and negative) and their impact.
- Could the financial crisis of 2007/8 be described as an economic shock? Explain.