A trend of “strategic nationalization” under President Vladimir Putin’s current term can only increase the share of the state in the Russian economy in the following years, analysts told Russia Matters.
Earlier this year, sanctioned tycoon Oleg Deripaska told the Financial Times that the Russian state holds 70 percent of the country’s economy in its hands. This figure has been in circulation for about five years after it was mentioned in a paper by the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Russia’s Federal Anti-Monopoly Service gave a similar estimate for 2017-2018, although without citing specific sources and using indefinitive language.
At the same time, respected international organizations and researchers have offered plenty of competing assessments, mostly in a range from 25 to 55 percent, and several experts queried by Russia Matters agree that the most realistic numbers they’ve seen in the past two years fall between 33 and 46 percent. Despite this smaller share, analysts doubt the coming years will bring greater efficiency or competition to Russia’s economy.
Sergei Guriev, chief economist of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), says that the ideal approach to measuring the state’s share in a country’s economy “would involve collecting data on ownership of all companies and estimating the market value of these companies’ assets,” but this is unrealistic. Instead, “researchers limit themselves to a certain subsample of companies and replace the market value of assets (which is hard to estimate) with more easily observable variables such as sales, employment or value added.”
One fine recent example of this approach, Guriev believes, can be found in a January 2018 report on efficiency by the Moscow-based Center for Strategic Research, or CSR, which estimated the state’s share in Russia’s GDP at 46 percent as of 2016. The calculations were based on a cumulative assessment of three components, using value added in all three cases: companies with state ownership stakes, the general government sector and so-called state unitary enterprises, or GUPs.
Analysts consulted by Russia Matters pointed to a trend toward strategic nationalization, which often, in turn, hurts efficiency and competition. Historian and Russia expert Chris Miller of Tufts University highlighted the Russian government’s “bigger role in the energy sector” as a key trend over the past 20 years, while the EBRD’s Guriev noted that “the state significantly expanded its control in certain strategic sectors such as banking, transportation, energy, technology.”
“We have seen major nationalizations … (Sibneft, TNK-BP, Yukos, Avtovaz, United Machinery), and the government injected capital into state-owned banks, state-owned enterprises and state corporations,” Guriev said.
These corporations were a new type of legal entity created in 2007-2008, according to CSR, some of which dominated whole sectors like aviation, nuclear power and shipbuilding.