The political economy of Russian oil and gas

From less than 50 percent in the mid-1990s, the share of commodities in Russian exports has grown to 70 percent today, with oil accounting for more than half of the export income. Representing up to 30 percent of the country’s GDP and half of its GDP growth since 2000, hydrocarbons provided at least half of the state’s budget revenues last year.

Five years ago, Russia needed oil prices of $50 to $55 a barrel to balance its budget, but Alexei Kudrin, former first deputy prime minister and finance minister, estimated the breakeven price at $117 per barrel last year.
Russia’s dependence on energy exports—and, consequently, its economy’s vulnerability to commodity price fluctuation—was highlighted by the 2009 world financial crisis. As oil plunged from $147 to $34 per barrel, the resource-based economy contracted by almost 8 percent—the largest drop among the G20 top industrial nations.

Russia has begun to exhibit the signs of what economists call the “Dutch disease,” when overreliance on commodity exports depresses other sectors of the economy by starving them of investments and modernization while the increasing value of the national currency makes exports of other goods and services more expensive and thus less competitive in world markets. Industrial stagnation has even spread to the military-industrial complex, which, like in Soviet times, continues to be the state’s favorite sector and enjoys its continuous and very generous support. Despite this, according to a recent survey, only 20 percent of the Russian defense enterprise qualified as “modern.”

Leon Aron – American Enterprise Institue

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