Russian volatility: Obstacle to firm survival and diversification
Alvaro González, Leonardo Iacovone, Hari Subhash 12 February 2014
Growth in Russia comes from few natural-resource-linked sectors and to a few firms; the economy is currently less diversified than it was during the Soviet times. This column presents evidence that the emergence of new firms is not the binding constraint on diversification: it is the poor survival odds of new firms, created by long, deep Russian economic slumps. More competition would help to drive out less efficient, older firms, and create space for young and efficient ones to survive and thrive.
Limited economic diversification – where production is concentrated in sectors characterised by low technology spillovers – can limit productivity growth and expose an economy to the macroeconomic instability of a fate dictated by external events. Moreover, development and diversification appear to be related. Imbs and Wacziarg (2003) show that higher per capita incomes are associated with greater diversification and then with increasing specialisation at higher per capita incomes.
Development Industrial organisation
Russia, economic diversification
Simon Commander, Alexander Plekhanov 29 January 2013
Russia aims to diversify its economy and reduce its dependence on natural resources. Despite laudable aims, this column argues that progress has been sluggish. Longstanding obstacles of corruption, low business-entry rates and weak competition afflict other countries that, like Russia, are in transition. Yet Russia comes pretty much bottom of the class. Crucially, the fact that economic diversification requires improvements to education and skills acquisition has been somewhat overlooked by the state. What attempts the state has made, such as supporting technology innovation, appear to have been ineffectual and, at times, counterproductive. Going forward, Russia would do well to focus on improving incentives for market-relevant research and development, complemented by private sector-led sources of finance for early-stage firms.
Russia aims to diversify its economy, thereby moving away from its dependence on oil and gas. Despite much political rhetoric, our research (European Bank for Reconstruction and Development 2012) indicates that, to date, relatively little has been achieved. Oil and gas still account for nearly 70% of total merchandise exports and around a half of the federal budget. Figure 1 shows the increasing share of minerals in total exports when measured in constant prices.
Figure 1. Russia: Structure of exports in real terms (at constant prices)
Russia, education, skills, oil, gas, economic diversification