Funny, how quickly things can go sour. The Russian government is the latest to face social unrest, linked to the global economic crisis. As blog-readers might have gathered, I was in Ukraine last week – and a Russian economist mentioned to me that there were demonstrations in Vladivostock against the new tariff on car imports. The FT is now reporting that the trouble is spreading.
More broadly, the Russian government is facing a serious economic crisis on several fronts. Just six months ago, its huge pile of almost $600 billion in foreign reserves seemed a symbol of the country’s new-found strength. But they have got through roughly a quarter of that in just three months – mainly through supporting the rouble. At this rate, it will all be gone well before the end of 2009. That is not an entirely implausible scenario, because the fiscal pressures on the Russian government are only likely to grow over the next year. Official projections are still that the economy will grow by about 3%; but private-sector economists in Moscow are talking about a deep recession. With oil down at just over $40 a barrel, the cash-spigot has been turned off. Read more