Vadim Zhartun: “The current economic crisis has hit 6 waves in Russia”
The probability that Russia will expect radical changes this fall is as high as never before
Network analyst Vadim Zhartun carefully considering the events of recent years, made a forecast in his blog on what awaits our country in the near future:
“Nobody knows anything, chaos reigns in the world and making forecasts in such a situation is an extremely thankless task. However, living one day is also not great, so I’ll try to assume what awaits us in the foreseeable future, relying on something more or less certain - on trends.
The dynamics of world GDP, the demand for energy, the life cycles of products and social systems, even epidemics, are waves with different amplitudes and periods that either strengthen or weaken each other, forming a single picture. Individual events also affect trends, but they are almost never able to reverse them.
And what is now visible in the wave pattern most closely resembles preparation for the “perfect storm”, which will break out very soon.
The first wave was far from the coronavirus epidemic, no. I would take 2015 as the starting point, when oil prices went through the peak of the 30-year cycle and rolled down . This process cannot be undone, it can only be slowed down for a while.
OPEC +’s attempt to do this was successful tactically - exporting countries maintained high oil prices for another three years. However, the strategic failure of their actions was predetermined - the club of arrogant competitors, who strive to cheat each other, is obviously not able to withstand the agreements for 15 years.
The Russian economy was ready to collapse in 2015, until the reserves were exhausted, 9-12 months remained, but we received a delay. Many of those who spoke about the collapse of the Russian economy at that time are now cautious and silent, but the situation is about the same as in January 2015.
Yes, the Russian economy has adapted better to low oil prices during this time, but it’s like starvation: up to a certain point, the body gets used to it successfully, but after reaching the threshold value, depletion begins. It ends sadly.
According to the trend, oil prices should now be in the range of $ 10-45 per barrel. The point after which the current budget of the Russian Federation will begin to starve is $ 42 / bbl.
Russia's oil and gas revenues account for about 11.5% of GDP, and if the average oil price drops from $ 63 / bbl to $ 45 / bbl, the Russian GDP will lose (very roughly) 3.3%, which almost completely negates the official GDP growth over the past two years , and since there is reason to believe that the official figures are too high, we are rolling back three years ago.
The sanctions that Russia received for the annexation of Crimea became the second wave. You have already ceased to pay attention to this, but they continue to grow stronger - the United States, with Trump's friend, led by enviable regularity, are adopting new and new sanctions packages that Russian companies fall under.
However, even the “old” sanctions work perfectly: cut off from the world capital markets and modern technologies, the Russian economy is structurally degrading, boiling in its own juice. Fixed assets of industrial enterprises are decreasing, and dependence on export of raw materials is growing.
It is difficult to estimate direct losses from sanctions: the lower estimate is about $ 50 billion, plus almost half a trillion rubles the population of the Russian Federation lost as a result of grocery “anti-sanctions”. According to IMF estimates, sanctions hinder the growth of Russia's GDP by 0.2% annually, but this does not take into account the long-term consequences of the growing lag in high-tech industries.
You need to clearly understand: while Putin is in power, he will not return Crimea, so the sanctions will only increase. When they are removed - is unknown. For example, the repeal of the Jackson-Vanik amendment introduced by the USA against the USSR took 38 years. That is, most likely this will not happen during our lifetime .
The global economy is developing cyclically: the recession is replacing growth. Moreover, it comes not "sooner or later", but according to a schedule. The mechanics of the cycles are complex, short cycles are superimposed on long ones, which complicates their prediction, but when the recession begins, it is difficult not to notice.
The first signs of another recession became noticeable in August last year: the industrial production index in China fell to 17-year lows, in the US industrial production went into the negative zone and remained in it for 5 consecutive months, in Japan, industrial production growth stopped.
By the depth of the fall in the indices, it could be assumed that we were already at the start of the global economic crisis, on a scale no less than in 2008-2009. And all this began even before the coronavirus, so there was no fault in it.
The deeper the recession, the greater the fall in revenues from the export of raw materials. Let me remind you that approximately 90% of Russian exports are just raw materials. 70% of oil and gas, the rest is metals, timber, mineral fertilizers.
You think it's time to talk about coronavirus? Not yet, we will recall oil again, but from the point of view of volumes of consumption, not prices. This year could be the first year of a new era - the era of decline in oil demand. I write “could become” because before the coronavirus it was a probability, now it is a fait accompli.
Until now, the demand for oil has been growing every year, however, it is becoming slower and slower: the world population is growing slower, energy-saving technologies are reducing energy demand, rapidly cheaper alternative energy sources are taking their share from oil, and electric cars are aiming at the very heart of the oil industry.
All this should have led to the fact that the demand for oil this year would have remained the same as in the past, or less - again, without any coronavirus and recession.
In the foreseeable future, oil demand will slowly but steadily fall, interrupting the decline only for periods of particularly sharp growth in the world economy. The offer is as good as ever: an ocean of shale oil is always at our service.
This means that production volumes will have to be reduced. OPEC has sought from the Russian Federation a reduction of 300 thousand barrels per day, now we are talking about 1 million barrels per day, which roughly amounts to from -0.3% to -1% of Russia's GDP.
Coronavirus. We see how the epidemic affects the economy: the service sector has suffered greatly, retail trade, tourism and transport, tremendous funds are being spent to fight the epidemic.
The negative impact of the epidemic will spread to other sectors of the economy along the chain: a decrease in population income due to quarantine - a decrease in demand for industrial goods - a decrease in industrial production - a decrease in freight traffic - a decrease in energy needs.
This will give the impending global economic crisis extra depth, and a drop in oil demand - a special drama. How much OPEC + countries will have to cut production - by 3, 10 or (according to pessimistic estimates) 30 million barrels per day to keep prices at least at the level of $ 40 / barrels is not yet clear.
It is not clear how long the epidemic will last. Quarantine in the form that is now used in different countries, only smoothes the peak incidence. Remove quarantine and the epidemic will flare up with renewed vigor.
This means that the coronavirus will ruin the economy for at least 3 months, and for a maximum of 1.5 years, until more than 50% of the world's population is ill or mass vaccination begins.
Only one month of “self-isolation”, according to my rough estimates, will cost the Russian economy -3.76% of GDP, in addition to what we lose due to lower quotes and oil exports.
I don’t even want to add these numbers, because the final 8-9% of GDP is already more than in 2009, and we still haven’t taken into account much.
Not only is the economy cyclical: states also have their own life cycles - from creation to collapse. These cycles are much shorter than it seems to us: if you measure them by the date of adoption of the codified constitution, then the record is 231 years.
The Russian Empire lasted 196 years, the USSR 69 years, and the Russian Federation 29 years, and by all indications it is in the terminal stage , followed only by its death - a change in the political system, usually accompanied by a deep socio-economic crisis.
There is no doubt that this will happen, the only question is when. The upper limit of this interval is Putin's life expectancy (authoritarian regimes rarely outlive their leaders), but his health can be judged only by indirect signs.
The lower border is the moment when problems in the economy peak, and disappointment with the actions of the authorities is at its maximum.
As for the attitude to power, the account for it has been open for a long time. The joy of misunderstanding from the annexation of Crimea and the charm of the 2014 Mildoniad ended, and since then, the authorities have been able to offer the Russians only disappointment.
The four-time victorious Syrian adventure with a smoldering Kuzey remained underestimated by the masses, but everyone remembered the increase in the retirement age.
Then there were epic elections to the Moscow City Duma and fantastic terms for paper cups, with which Muscovites expressed their admiration for the actions of tightly booked "astronauts" breaking the legs of casual passers-by.
Billions of Colonel Zakharchenko, Golunov’s affairs, Networks and the like made it extremely obvious that there was no justice in the country, and the police looked more like a gang.
The extremely clumsy dumbasser with a mockery of the Constitution for the sake of zeroing Putin’s terms has caused bewilderment and disappointment even for former Putin supporters.
A fantastic idiocy of an escapade with a defiant and insulting exit from the OPEC + deal, after which the infuriated Arabs instantly showed who the boss in the oil market led to the collapse of the ruble and a decrease in real incomes.
And now the authorities have to pass the decisive exam - to demonstrate how a powerful "power vertical" under the guidance of an energetic, visionary leader will deal with the coronavirus in a businesslike and masterful way.
Russia was lucky: being at the margins of the world economy and traffic flows, having a low mobility population due to poverty and spread over a vast territory, it was not the first to enter the epidemic, having the time to prepare and the opportunity to use the experience of other countries.
However, we not only did not see the preparations - instead of it we were told from television screens for a long time that the epidemic was someone’s idle fiction, that the coronavirus was no worse than the flu, and that the God-chosen Russian people would not be affected.
And suddenly, like a bolt from the blue, we found ourselves in the HZ regime - when the president self-isolated from solving problems and shoved the responsibility for what was happening to the governors, and the people remained completely ignorant of their future.
Not only does the government lack a coherent strategy to combat the epidemic, it also, in one fell swoop, deprived millions of people employed in the private sector of the economy, instead of supporting measures, offering them criminal liability for not wanting to die of hunger while sitting at home.
The coronavirus cannot be defeated by putting spyware on phones, fining people for walking dogs or trying to park a car, and not boosting the economy by spending money on tile and fireworks.
When the battered hospitals begin to die, not in units, but in thousands, and the buckwheat reserves of the population come to an end, any actions of the authorities will be perceived as forced and belated, and the results - as unsatisfactory.
And then the time comes for a plebiscite for amendments to the Constitution. Do you still remember this? Two options are possible here: either the government will “forget” about the vote and try to explain to the people that the amendments were adopted somehow by themselves, or they will vote and then tell that 70% of voters who were “self-isolating” penniless their parents were lying in the corridor of the hospital with a coronavirus, wished Putin to remain their president for at least another 12 years.
How this will be perceived is not hard to guess. Even if the plebescite is postponed indefinitely, in September there will be a single voting day, which will help translate the accumulated discontent of the people into the political plane.
But we have colossal gold and foreign exchange reserves - $ 551.2bn, about a third of annual GDP - the same "rainy day coin" into which the Ministry of Finance and the Central Bank have poured for years the funds expressed from the already bleeding Russian economy!
Why not leave them to fight the crisis, with coronavirus, why not support the "middle class" with salaries of 17t.r., which, thanks to "self-isolation", will now lose this money? Won't this solve all the problems at once?
However, not all so simple. Let's turn to history - the crises of 2009 and 2015.
In 2009, Russia's GDP fell by -7.8% in rubles and -26.4% in dollars. At the same time, the Central Bank at its peak spent more than $ 200 billion from reserves.
In 2014-2016, during the next crisis, everything turned out to be even more interesting: GDP in dollars fell for three consecutive years by -10.2%, -33.7% and -5.9%. As a result, from $ 2.3 trillion he cringed to $ 1.3 trillion. The reserves were spent about the same as in 2009 - about $ 200 billion, but GDP still lost a trillion dollars!
Of course, we can argue that in rubles the GDP of the Russian Federation did not fall so much: 0.7%, -3.7% and -0.2%, and that if we assume GDP at purchasing power parity in felt boots, balalaikas and glass beads , then everything is not so bad, but when it comes to buying industrial equipment, computers, smartphones, cars, clothes, medicines, seeds and other necessary things, everything immediately falls into place: you buy a new iPhone and you see that it has risen in price not by 4%, but almost twice.
This fall in GDP has not been won back so far - now we are at the 2010 level. For ten years they have been tucked into the cat’s tail, crossed out, torn out of the country's economic history.
The impending crisis in scale will almost guaranteed be deeper than in 2009 and 2015. There are now almost as many liquid assets in gold reserves as they were then (200-300 out of 550bn), and we will face comparable losses. This means that even when (if) the Ministry of Finance spends all of them, GDP, and with it the real incomes of the population will drop by 20-50%.
The currency structure of reserves, by the way, is also not very successful. Trying to annoy the United States, the Central Bank reduced the share of dollars in reserves and increased the shares of yuan and the euro. Plus he bought gold, which also has certain problems with liquidity. As a result, the gold reserves of the Russian Federation lost only $ 30bn in value in just 1 week.
But these are purely economic aspects, and there is also a political one. All recent government actions show that these are not reserves created for the population, but rather that the population is used to create reserves.
Raising the retirement age, more and more taxes and fees, excise taxes on gasoline, which rises in price despite the fact that oil is already cheaper than bottled water, the regime of "self-isolation" at its own expense - the population is literally squeezed to dryness.
It looks as if the authorities had finally become disillusioned with the electorate and made a bet on the police and the Russian Guard - to force and intimidate at some point is easier and cheaper than to deceive and bribe.
In addition, during the crisis, authorities are accustomed to supporting large businesses - systemically important banks, state corporations and oligarchs. This is both simpler, more understandable, and more profitable.
Well, of course, you can’t discount the probability that a significant part of gold reserves (for example, the same monetary gold) is simply stolen. I understand that this sounds wild, but in the country of secured auctions, “Chechen advice notes” and VAT refund schemes, nothing will surprise me.
All this allows us to assume that the government will pull using reserves to the last, the population will get crumbs from them, and the consequences for the economy in any case will be dire.
Considering how the waves overlap, the world economy will be able to find the bottom no earlier than autumn in the best case, and return to pre-crisis values only after a year. This will affect us with a delay of a couple of months, respectively, the worst period will be the end of the year, and it is by this time that the degree of indignation in society will be maximum.
Until recently, one could only say that soon radical changes await Russia, implying, inter alia, a change of power. Now the time interval has become clear when the likelihood of this is higher than ever: autumn 2020 - winter 2021 .
Maybe this will happen later, but here you have to rely only at random - on some fantastic, unconditional luck. This has already happened in recent Russian history, but the likelihood of this is not too great and seriously counting on this would be inappropriate optimism. Maybe everything will happen sooner - one cannot underestimate the degree of stupidity of a government capable of creating problems for itself on an absolutely level ground.
With this in mind, I have three forecasts for you, choose any one to your taste, the essence of this will not change.
For optimists: in the fall, Russia will finally break the bottom, and the country we knew will end.
For pessimists: in the fall Russia will break the bottom, the country we knew will end, and another will begin - even worse.
For realists: no matter what happens, autumn will be a very difficult time, for which you need to prepare now ... "