Category Archives: Article IV Russia

3/8/15: IMF on Russian Economy: Private Sector Debt

Continuing with IMF analysis of the Russian economy, recall that
- The first post here covered GDP growth projections (upgraded)
- External Debt and Fiscal positions (a mixed bag with broadly positive supports but weaker longer-term sustainability issues relating to deficits).

This time around, let's take a look at IMF analysis of Private Sector Debt.

As IMF notes, economic crisis is weighing pretty heavily on banks' Non-performing Loans:

In part, the above is down to hefty write downs taken by the banks on Ukrainian assets (Russian banks were some of the largest lenders to Ukraine in the past) both in corporate and household sectors.

However, thanks to deleveraging (primarily in the corporate sector, due to sanctions, and some in household sector, due to economic conditions), Loan to Deposits ratio is on the declining trajectory:
Note: Here is a chart on deleveraging of the corporate sector and for Russian banks:

In line with changes in demand for debt redemptions, FX rates, as well as due to some supports from the Federal Government, banks' exposure to Central Bank funding lines has moderated from the crisis peak, though it remains highly elevated:

Illustrating the severity of sanctions, corporate funding from external lenders and markets has been nil:

And Gross External Debt is falling (deleveraging) on foot of cut-off markets and increased borrowing costs:

So companies are heading into domestic markets to borrow (banks - first chart below, bonds - second chart below):


1) Corporate external debt is falling:

2) Household debt is already low:

3) But the problem is that deleveraging under sanctions is coinciding with economic contraction (primarily driven by lower oil prices), which means that Government reserve funds (while still sufficient) are not being replenished. IMF correctly sees this as a long term problem:

So top of the line conclusion here is that banking sector remains highly pressured by sanctions and falling profitability, as well as rising NPLs. Credit issuance is supported not by new capital formation (investment) but by corporates switching away from foreign debt toward domestic debt. Deleveraging, while long-term positive, is painful for the economy. While the system buffers remain sufficient for now, long term, Russia will require serious changes to fiscal rules to strengthen its reserves buffers over time.

3/8/15: IMF on Russian Economy: Debt Sustainability

In the previous post, I covered IMF latest analysis of Russian GDP growth. Here, another key theme from the IMF Article IV report on Russia: fiscal policy sustainability.

In its latest assessment of the Russian economy, IMF has reduced its forecast for General Government deficit for 2015, from -3.69% of GDP back in April 2015 to -3.3% of GDP in the latest report. However, in line with new Budgetary framework, the IMF revised its forecasts for 2016-2020 deficits to show poorer fiscal performance:

In line with worsening deficits from 2016 on, IMF is also projecting higher government debt (gross debt, inclusive of state guarantees):

Still, the IMF appears to be quite happy with the overall debt and fiscal sustainability over the short run and is taking a view that over the next 2-3 years, fiscal policy must provide some upside supports to investment.

One of the reasons for this is that IMF sees continued strong buffers on fiscal reserves side into 2020, with Gross international reserves of USD362.4 billion and 374.8 billion in 2015-2016 amounting to 13.6 months of imports and providing cover for 496% and 281% of short term debt, respectively.

Furthermore, IMF expects debt levels to remain benign, both in terms of Government debt and Private sector debt as the chart above shows.

Note: I will cover Private Sector Debt developments in a separate post, so stay tuned.


1) External debt situation remains positive and is improving in the sector with weaker performance (corporate sector):
Note: above figures do not net out debt written to Russian banks and corporates by their parent and subsidiary entities located outside Russia, as well as direct investment / equity -linked debt.

2) " sector shows maturity risk with short-term assets exceeding short-term debt in aggregate"

3) Fiscal stance appears to be expansionary, but moderate, with deficits below 4% of GDP forecast for the worst performance year of 2016.

4) "Exchange rate and liquidity risks are mitigated by the CBR's large reserve level"

Stay tuned for more analysis, including debt positions across various sectors.

3/8/15: IMF on Russian Economy: GDP Growth Upgrade for 2015-2016

IMF has just realised its assessment of the Russian economy. Several interesting aspects of this report are worth highlighting.

First up: economic growth projections. IMF actually upgraded, marginally, Russian forecasts for 2015-2016 across the key macroeconomic parameters. Here are three charts comparing GDP growth, Inflation and Current Account balance projections from the Fund across two separate reports: April 2015 WEO and today's Article IV.

And a summary of latest forecasts

Overall, small upgrade on GDP side compared to April release, for both 2015 and 2016. Expected return to positive growth in 2016 remains extremely weak and subject to huge uncertainty. Worse, when one looks into components of GDP, the picture that emerges is less 'positive'.

Domestic demand will likely remain a negative drag on growth though 2016, with expected improvement - albeit marginal - on investment side in 2017. Consumption, however, will remain a small contributor to the overall growth in 2018-2019. Investment is also to remain weak.

Structural nature of the slowdown is reflected in exceptionally weak productivity performance. This traces back to post-crisis period in its entirety. Russian economy did not experience a significant recovery on productivity growth rates post-2009 crisis and since 2010 there has ben a pronounced downward trend in productivity growth:

While relatively low unemployment is supported by decline in labour force participation rate (accelerating due to twin demographic problem of rising older and younger population shares, plus poor health performance amongst older adults):

Overall, however, declining labour force trend should have translated into increased productivity of the labour force. In Russian case, this is not happening.

Slight uptick in unemployment recently is likely to continue through 2015, but will not be enough to induce labour productivity growth acceleration:

The IMF forecasts come on foot of ruble posting woefully poor performance, falling to a 5-months low ( and with Manufacturing PMI showing acceleration in economic decline in July (

All of this is hardly a pleasant reading. However, not all is as gloomy as the above headline figures imply. In particular, in several key areas, macroeconomic position is relatively strong. I will blog on these in subsequent posts.