Posted 9 марта 07:28
Published 9 марта 07:28
Modified 9 марта 08:52
Updated 9 марта 08:52
- For two months we have been following the somersaults of the federal budget with a sharp increase in expenses and an exorbitant deficit of the state treasury for the beginning of the year. The results of January and February: the deficit amounted to 2.6 trillion rubles. This is 88% of the annual plan.
- There is some kind of, I would say, destruction of the budget, which, of course, already scares all economists. We are used to the fact that the Ministry of Finance observes financial discipline and usually tries not to allow such very big failures. And here is a story with crazy expenses and big problems with income.
Therefore, of course, we are now looking with some horror at what is happening in the budget, what imbalances and imbalances are emerging there. Moreover, we remember the statement of the Ministry of Finance that part of the expenses of 2023 was carried out within the framework of last year's budget and we understand that the Ministry of Finance has to spend ahead of even its own plans.
It is possible that similar stories will be repeated this year. So, of course, this is a frightening picture. Some analysts are already saying that if the current trends in the financial sector continue, then extremely unpleasant events may await us by the end of the year…
- How much was it expected that oil and gas revenues in the first months of 2023 would collapse so sharply - to 946.7 billion rubles. After all, this is much lower than similar indicators for many years.
- Of course, it was expected (even by the Russian Ministry of Finance itself) that they would fall, and this was included in the draft budget. But still, the state believed that it would collect 8.6-8.9 trillion of such revenues in a year. However, what we have seen in recent months calls such expectations into question – it is too bleak a picture so far.
Especially after the record oil and gas revenues of last year, when sanctions have not yet begun to take effect, but prices have already jumped up. And this somehow dampened the severity of the economic crisis in the country.
- Now the pendulum has swung in the opposite direction, and so sharply that there is a whole layer of problems.
- Look, on the one hand, the government says: "So we were able to rebuild, we changed the export directions, everything is fine." In general, this really happened, so, by the way, it is no longer possible to talk about some kind of ongoing "swing": the restructuring of exports has taken place. Everything that could have been done has already been done, in general.
A very small number of countries became the main buyers: this is India, China, a little Turkey. Thus, in the eight months of 2022, Russian oil exports to India increased to $ 10.4 billion against 5.7 billion a year earlier. As a result, back in the summer, Russia came in second place among oil suppliers to India. The supply of petroleum products and coal has also increased. And already in October, Russia became the largest supplier of crude oil to India, bypassing Saudi Arabia and Iraq. The share of Russian raw materials was then 22% of all supplies. And Indian buyers even began to slow down – the country does not want to become too dependent on Russian supplies, seeing the experience of Europe.
As a result, 1-1.2 million barrels per day were supplied to Asian countries in total before the SVO, and now 2.4-2.5 million barrels per day. There were practically no supplies to India at the beginning of the year, and by the end of the year India is the largest and key buyer of Russian oil, absorbing 0.9-1 million barrels per day, and China, on the contrary, reduces purchases from 1.1-1.2 million to 0.8 million barrels/d. Another 500-600 thousand barrels in recent weeks are unidentified - with supplies somewhere in Asia.
But the problem is that Asian buyers mostly take oil at a big discount, and they have to carry it further and more expensive. And this reduces the profit from exports, from which the budget receives taxes.
- And, by the way, as far as I understand, oil exporters are now accumulating Indian currency, with which they can do nothing ...
- Yes, information has come in recent days that there have already been problems with cash payments for oil supplies. Rupees received from the sale of Russian goods turned out to be impossible to spend: the Central Bank of India does not allow them to be traded on the Moscow Stock Exchange and converted into rubles, since Indian currency regulation restricts circulation and settlements in rupees outside India, and this applies to the entire outside world.
It also turned out to be difficult to use rupees directly - for importing goods to Russia: it is not possible to buy some goods for import to Russia on nefterupia, because there are no goods there that could be sold in large volumes in Russia, and moreover with profit.
As a result, trade with India turned out to be one-sided: Russia sells oil to Indian refineries, India sends rupees in return. But despite the fact that India imports goods worth 4-5 billion dollars a month, its exports to Russia amount to hundreds of millions, analysts at Deutsche Bank note. This is clearly visible on the chart published by the famous financial analyst Robin Brooks on his Twitter.
Therefore, a gigantic trade imbalance is forming in the Russian-Indian trade and Russian banks have already begun to refuse to receive rupees: they do not want an accumulation of excess Indian currency, which there is nowhere to "attach". That is, it turned out that oil companies, in general, gave India oil "for nothing."
But the tax service does not understand the word "just like that". Once the revenue is received, then - at the official exchange rate of the rupee to the ruble - it is recalculated to calculate the income and profits of oil companies. Accordingly, it is necessary to pay tax to the budget from this amount of income received. Therefore, some crazy story begins with the export of oil to India. And how it will end is still unclear.
- The embargo on petroleum products has been in effect since December, could it have already had such a noticeable effect on the income of exporters?
- Oil products are even more difficult and worrisome. India and China do not need them – they produce and export them themselves. China is now rapidly increasing exports of diesel fuel itself, seeking to take a place in the market vacated after the imposition of sanctions against Russia. So it is likely that Chinese diesel (from Russian oil, but with a profit for Chinese companies) will help Europe cope with the cessation of imports of Russian petroleum products - the shipment of diesel fuel from China in December 2022 has already reached the highest level since at least 2016.
In recent weeks, there has been a very large flow of exports of petroleum products from Russia to the countries of North Africa. Well, again, it is unclear what currencies the buyers there will pay with? And won't there be problems with exotic "poorly convertible" currencies here, and how will the budget take income from this?
That is, some kind of crazy situation of layering one problem on another begins, and this, of course, creates very big difficulties for the country's budget. Let me remind you that oil and gas exports (with a comprehensive calculation of the entire range of tax revenues) used to form more than 50% of the income of the Russian state.
- But the Ministry of Finance diligently signals: everything is going according to plan...
- Of course, the Ministry of Finance tries to pretend that it has coped with everything, but it is not very successful, because all the time, I repeat, some new problems come out. In order to solve them, the Ministry of Finance has already gone to all sorts of lengths and began urgently shaking up the country's tax system. Last year, Gazprom's money was taken away urgently, and they urgently came up with a "slap" (additive) to the mineral extraction tax (MET) in order to receive more money. Accordingly, this is also an encumbrance of oil companies. Now they are preparing to carry out a one–time – without any rules - collection of taxes from all large companies in Russia for two hundred and fifty billion.
Now the Ministry of Finance has changed the scheme for calculating the export price of oil. He practically abandoned any monitoring of the real prices of supplies abroad – the oil business has become very "shadowy" - and began to define it arbitrarily. That is, practically the Ministry of Finance has now introduced for the oil industry, well, how can I tell you, the standard price of oil exports. This means that they took as a starting point the exchange price of Brent crude oil and set their will to it the maximum allowable discount when selling Russian Urals crude and others.
In other words, the Federal Tax Service now, by order of the Ministry of Finance, tells oil companies like this: "We don't know and we don't want to know how much you really sold your oil to China or India. But we believe that you should have sold for no less than our estimated price. It is based on it – in dollars and at the dollar–ruble exchange rate - that your ruble revenue will be determined, creating ruble profit and your ruble payments to the state budget."
- Well, the Ministry of Finance won't offend its practically the only "cash cow", will it?
- Who knows – now the state budget is in such trouble that it is ready to "offend" anyone, just to somehow increase revenues and continue to finance its own and military production. The position of the Ministry of Finance is simple – in 2022, oil workers were swimming in profits, so they won't die if they tighten the belt now and even work at a loss. But if this situation drags on for a long time? But the share of hard-to-recover reserves (TRIZ) is very large in the Russian oil industry, where the cost of oil is much higher than in the most efficient fields.
In general, some kind of crazy turmoil begins in the oil industry (especially due to the decline in the sale of petroleum products). However, the picture is even worse with gas.
- And this, of course, already lays mines for future budget revenues.
- But even now we are already seeing a very sad picture, connected with the fact that Russian companies – especially outside the oil and gas industry and the military-industrial complex - are beginning to delay the payment of tax. Budget arrears have already arisen.
- So is it still arrears or a technical failure, as it was said in January?
- The Ministry of Finance is trying to deny this, but statistics still allow us to see it. Apparently, a lot of companies are in financial difficulties, they try not to pay. And there are debts on income tax.
According to Rosstat, as of January 1, 2023, the total debt of Russian companies on taxes, fees, insurance premiums and penalties reached 2.53 trillion rubles. During the year, business debts increased by 541 billion rubles, or 27%.
VAT arrears, the second key source of money for the federal budget, increased by 40% over the year, or 286 billion rubles. As of January 1, it reached 1.019 trillion rubles. Income tax debts increased by 46% and reached 469.5 billion rubles. The debt of raw materials companies on the mining tax jumped 3.2 times: as of January 1, it was 130.6 billion rubles, and at the beginning of 2022 — 39.8 billion rubles.
If, of course, the tax service starts to write off money from accounts by force, then, probably, these debts can be repaid, but then it is difficult to say what will happen to debtor companies and employment in them.
- Finance Minister Anton Siluanov said that in January-February, more than 5 trillion rubles of taxes were received by the budget system. And this is more than a year earlier.
- Well, let's not forget that in January-February 2022, the Russian economy has just begun to get out of the covid state (and by the way, GDP growth was expected in it by 3%, instead of which a drop of more than two percent was recorded over the year, which means that the country came to 2023 because of its with GDP 5% less than it could be).
And to see the picture of the state of the country's economy not through the eyes of the finance minister, but really, it is worth considering that according to Rosstat, the profits of Russian business had already decreased by 1.8 times in annual terms by October 2022.
Wholesale trade suffered the most — in general, the industry suffered losses of 125 billion rubles (against a profit of 489 billion in October 2021). In the sphere of hotels and catering enterprises, the loss amounted to 2.1 billion rubles.
Russian companies' profits have been steadily declining since June 2022. Then the monthly financial result of the corporate sector in Russia decreased by 31% year-on-year. In July, a decrease of 15% followed, in August — by 16%, and in September, organizations did not make a profit at all (the total loss of companies exceeded total profits by 728 billion rubles).
In other words, the non-military part of the Russian economy is becoming less profitable, and may become unprofitable as a whole, as it was in the last years of the USSR.
It will be increasingly difficult to take taxes from falling production, despite attempts to import substitution, from an economy squeezed into the domestic market, from economic activity increasingly determined by state defense orders - with minimum prices set by the state.
I could justify this forecast in much more detail, but I'm afraid to bore readers with an abundance of numbers!
I will only note that the Ministry of Finance optimistically included in the draft state budget for 2023-2025 the growth of non–tax revenues, balancing them with military spending - protected, they say, this from the bad situation for Russia on the world oil and gas market. But, alas, these incomes did not grow, but fell – by 9.1% to the total for January-February 2022.
Therefore, we are looking not only at the results of two months, but at frightening trends that will interfere with tax collection and budget replenishment next month. It is difficult to say what this will result in, but the threats are very serious.
- In what crises did similar financial indicators emerge?
- Oil and gas revenues have fallen as they have not fallen for quite a long time (if you do not remember, of course, the 80-90s, when it brought down the economy of the USSR, and then led to the default of 1998). If we take the income for the previous years of the current century, then we had strong drops in tax collections on oil and gas the sector – in 2009, when there was a global crisis. And we had a pretty big drop in 2016. But then the drop was somewhere in the range -32-36%. And now, only in January-February, oil and gas revenues are 46.4% less than a year ago.
Less than a trillion rubles of oil and gas revenues in two months (against 1.8 trillion rubles in 2022) - there have not been such low incomes at the beginning of the year for five years.
Once again, the federal budget of Russia is the budget of a raw country. The total share of revenues from oil and gas and raw materials exports in general is under 60%. But now ferrous metals are under sanctions, oil and petroleum products are under sanctions, gold is under sanctions, wood is under sanctions, aluminum (in the US) is under sanctions. Sanctions on diamonds are on the way. Russia turned off the gas through the old pipelines itself.
That is, few of the former natural resource exports survived the fire of sanctions - fertilizers, wheat, copper, uranium. Not enough to keep the budget stable…
And the main thing is that all this is happening against the background of a huge increase in budget expenditures. It is here that the main reason for threats not only to financial stability, but also to the entire economy of the country.
- In the first two months of the year alone, Russia spent 5.7 trillion rubles from the budget. Is this critical already?
- This is about 19% of the annual amount planned by the Ministry of Finance. If this is really an advance for future purchases, then such expenses may not be dangerous – if they were commensurate with income. But the picture is different – expenses increased by 51.5% compared to the same period last year, and revenues fell by 24.8%. As a result, the budget deficit for two months is already almost 90% of the amount provided for the whole year.
Now, in order to normalize the situation, the state budget needs to spend every month, starting in March, half a trillion less than last year. This seems unrealistic to many economists.
Rather, the costs will only grow. Many experts drew attention to the fact that according to Rosstat, the production of "finished metal products" – a statistical line that includes, in addition to such items as cutlery, weapons, bombs and various types of ammunition – increased by almost 30% in July compared to last year after a sharp decline in previous years months. And the July resumption of growth in construction (by more than 6% year-on-year) also apparently contributed to defense orders.
Now the model of the Russian economy has greatly simplified: the state budget spends – money comes into the economy – there is demand in the economy – the economy is working. The budget will stop spending money – there will be a drop in demand in the economy – the economy will start to fall.
That is, if the state tries to reduce the budget deficit by reducing its expenditures, the gross product and profits of companies will fall, as well as the earnings of their employees, from whom taxes are taken to the same budget. Then the costs will be even less… Etc. That's about the way the Russian economy is running now.…
- If you do not cut spending, what kind of deficit does the treasury risk getting by the end of 2023? Many economists, as far as can be judged from their public statements, no longer doubt that the planned level of the cash gap (almost 3 trillion rubles) will be exceeded.
- You know, now you can arrange a sweepstake on who will guess the exact amount of the budget deficit this year! At first, they cautiously said that maybe there would be 3.3 trillion, but now more and more of my colleagues are confident that the budget will not meet any 3 trillion deficit if it amounts to 2.5 trillion in the first two months and it is problematic to cut spending rigidly by the end of the year. Therefore, forecasts are becoming more and more frightening almost every week.
5-6 trillion is already being discussed, and someone is talking about a 7 trillion deficit. With some probability, maybe even more (there are even desperate forecasts that the deficit could reach 10-11 trillion, that is, a third of the budget!).
Uncertainty is natural - no one can calculate exactly what will happen. Not such models and precedents. The Russian economy has been sacrificed to foreign policy and what it will be by the end of the year can only be imagined in the form of scenarios.
There are three basic ones. I will not discuss them, so as not to take up readers' time. But I will say that none of the scenarios for the "SVO-economy" bundle does not bode well for Russia. The difference is only in the types and scale of losses.
- Well, we, economists, try not to use the word "catastrophe" – it is too vague. But the destruction of normal economic life in the country – even in comparison with 2021, not that 2013 may be very large and difficult to fix.
- However, the National Welfare Fund still has about 6.5 trillion rubles of liquid funds set aside for a rainy day. They can be spent now in such a situation, has the "rainy day" already come?
- Well, look. We have six trillion – this is really a liquid part, but let's figure out what these funds consist of. In February 2023, 10.4 billion euros, 307.44 billion Chinese yuan, 551,277.5 kg of gold and 530.1 million rubles were placed on separate accounts for the accounting of NWF funds in the Bank of Russia.
Gold and yuan decreased over the month — by 0.6% and 0.7%, respectively. They were sold to cover the budget deficit, 38.498 billion rubles were saved.
- That is, the Ministry of Finance really has only yuan and gold at its disposal.
- Yuan is a currency that is more convertible and therefore liquid than rupees. But, alas, not much more reliable. And yet, the yuan is the currency that really exists in Russia so far, it can be sold on the stock exchange. And the Ministry of Finance conducts such sales - on the currency exchange, the turnover in the yuan exceeded the turnover in the dollar.
By the way, this means that Russia has already passed most of the road to "Yuanization" of its economy and, having got rid of "dollarization", has become a country totally economically dependent on China.
And gold can be sold mainly within the country, and therefore the Ministry of Finance is now actively persuading citizens to convert their savings in dollars and euros into gold bars and coins.
And then there is a problem with using the NWF funds to cover the budget deficit. It is not even so much economic as political and psychological. To spend the entire NWF means to admit that "that black day" has really come in Russia and all reserves have been burned. Both the president and the Ministry of Finance are afraid of this.
Therefore, they swear that in 2023 the entire NWF will not be spent to cover the deficit. Siluanov said so, if you remember: "We had a dilemma: NWF spend, or both, or more emphasis on borrowing. We decided to go to the market and borrow. The NWF should be saved as much as possible for investment and as a reserve."
- Yes, the Ministry of Finance promised that it would actively borrow, which it has been actively engaged in since the end of last year. Is this normal?
- Well, if the deficit is growing, and it's scary to spend the entire NWF, then the state can only borrow. So, it is necessary to issue federal loan bonds and sell them to someone. So far, mainly Russian banks, because foreign investors no longer come to us.
But the more such borrowings, the stronger the fear that they will not be repaid. And the market is starting to demand higher and higher returns – risk premiums. And then the next mine begins to be laid for the future of Russia. By increasing the debt of the state, we are condemning the country's budget to the costs of paying off this debt for many years to come. The Ministry of Finance is now issuing bonds (OFZ) even with a maturity of 10 years. And then you need to put money into the budget of the next years in order to extinguish the bonds and pay income on top of them.
- Yes, the yield on OFZ is already 10.7%! Our children and grandchildren will pay for it. Right?
- Yes, the income is rather big. The yield on OFZ bonds, if short, is 7-8% there, but for 10-year-old - already more than 10%. And the budget is already noticeably increasing the cost of servicing the public debt.
- But Russia's public debt has always been considered low, that is, it was assumed that there was still a large reserve for additional borrowing? Isn't that right now?
- If we look at the statistics, then by 2023 only 1.5 trillion is needed to service the public debt. If we borrow more, then only 2-3 trillion rubles will be needed to service the debt. That is, this is money that, as they say, just take it out and give it to repay the debt. You collected them in the form of taxes, but you can't spend them on anything – only on settlements with those from whom you borrowed before.
And it turns out that today you support the economy by borrowing, but tomorrow you have to pay for this debt. You take out this money – the costs of the economy and the support of the population fall and the economy begins to fall. Because there are no government orders, there are no expenditures on the economy, and you start – saving the budget today - spoiling the future of the economy and the affairs with public finances of the next years. That's what's happening now.
That is, the public debt is growing quite rapidly, which can be seen even according to the official data of the Ministry of Finance presented on the graph.
If we take into account that as of January 1, 2018, Russia's internal debt amounted to 8.7 trillion rubles, then we see that by the end of 2023, according to the plan, it should have already increased 2.4 times.
But it will grow even more, since the Ministry of Finance is already borrowing much more money than it had previously planned: so, in 2022, 3.26 trillion rubles were borrowed through OFZ against the plan of 2.2 trillion rubles.
Yes, formally, Russia's public debt is small in relation to the country's GDP. But the ambush here is that our gross product is also falling. The Ministry of Economy says: "No, it's fine, he'll be growing soon." And due to what exactly will it grow? There are really no factors of economic growth.
However, if your gross product is also falling, then the ratio of the growing numerator (public debt) to the decreasing denominator (GDP) gives you an increasing value. And therefore there is an increasingly serious threat of loss of stability of the economy.
- Isn't the involvement of many sectors of the economy in the maintenance of its own will not help GDP growth?
- Look, right now the Russian economy has clearly divided into two segments living very differently: military and civilian. And now it is already clear that the civilian economy is falling, and everything related to civilian production is collapsing.
As we can already see, the course on import substitution does not help either – in fact, it turned into "Chinese substitution", that is, the niches in the assortment after the departure of Western companies were filled not by Russian manufacturers, but by Chinese ones. Your newspaper recently wrote that the share of Chinese trucks in the Russian market has reached 60%.
Only the military part is growing, and it is growing at the expense of budget expenditures. That is, the entire growth of the RUNWAY now, as I have already said, is due to the fact that the state takes money from the civilian economy and invests in the military. Thanks to this "pumping", military production is growing, people are being paid there, and the military part of Russia's gross product is growing, while the civilian part is falling.
But in order for this to happen further, we need money for military orders withdrawn from the civilian sector of the economy. And we've already discovered that with money, it's getting worse, not better.
- And what should be the values of GDP, public debt, deficit, so that even a non-economist can understand: this is the beginning of the end?
- The Ministry of Finance has been trying for a long time to follow the international standards of state budget management and tried to keep the ratio of the state budget deficit to the gross product of the country no higher than 3%. But now the situation is changing, and as I said, comparing the deficit and the country's GDP is not the most reasonable approach.
A more reasonable view, which many Russian economists are beginning to share now, is the "housewife's view", that is, an assessment of how much of the necessary expenses there will not be enough real achievable income. For example, earlier in the "Budget Code of Russia" it was assumed that the share of uncovered expenses should be no more than 10%.
But let's count. State budget expenditures for 2023 are estimated at 29 trillion rubles, and the planned deficit is 2.9 trillion rubles. rubles, that is, the share of expenses uncovered by income is 10%.
But if the deficit increases to 5 trillion (and this is the amount that seems most likely to most Russian economists so far), then the share of uncovered expenses will already reach 17.2%. This means that regular income will not be enough for every sixth ruble of expenses, and in an even worse case – for every fifth.
Now it becomes clearer why Finance Minister Siluanov said last year that the development of the budget for the next three years is the most difficult task in his entire career. Indeed, it is becoming increasingly difficult to maintain control over Russia's public finances and avoid even greater troubles for the economy and citizens.
- Which quarter will be the most significant, according to the results of which there will be a clearer understanding of the results of 2023?
-Usually, in the public sector, the picture always looks the same: expenses go more or less evenly over the months, and in December there is an insane surge in spending. This is such an innate logic of the life of budget organizations. And last year it was about the same: at the end of the fourth quarter there were huge expenses.
I suspect that this year will be the same, but they may announce some other expenses. Therefore, the end of the year, it looks very alarming this year. Because we don't know what the deficit will be, what money will actually be collected from the economy. We are not yet fully seeing the consequences of the loss of oil product revenues, and we do not yet know where or what they will do with Russia if they start actively using secondary sanctions or lower the oil price ceiling even more.
The Ministry of Finance, of course, says on duty: there's nothing to worry about, we will now switch to a new scheme for calculating the income of oil companies, we will take the tax in a different way, and we will have more income, and we will have less deficit. They also argue: "Look, in February we only had a little over 800 billion monthly deficit against 1.7 trillion in the first month, in January. So, the situation is getting better."
However, let's do the math. Even if the Ministry of Finance, due to the new procedure for calculating the export price of oil, reduces the monthly deficit to at least 500 billion (against 800 in January), then 10 months of spending and possible deficits are still ahead.
And 10 months of 500 billion is another 5 trillion rubles to the 2.6 trillion deficit that has already been formed in January-February, and then you already get a figure of 7.6-8 trillion budget deficit (24-27% of the planned amount of spending). In order to prevent this from happening and to be able to meet the planned deficit of 2.9 trillion rubles in the end, it is necessary, as I have already said, to reduce monthly expenses in the remaining 10 months by this very half trillion.
But it is not that difficult to imagine that in the conditions of the ongoing SVO, the state will be able to reduce budget expenditures in such a way, but it is simply impossible. The head of the Rostec state Corporation, Sergey Chemezov, has already announced in February that Rostec has significantly increased the production of certain types of ammunition. "The volumes are enormous," he said, adding that Russia has increased the production of hypersonic (and very expensive to manufacture) Dagger missiles
- Can all this fuss with a one-time business fee fix the situation? Taking into account the current figures, the contribution of business seems to be a penny.
- Yes, this story is funny. At first, the authorities wanted to withdraw a trillion rubles from big business. Then it didn't work out and then they started talking about at least half a trillion. As a result, we agreed that the budget, like, will receive about 250 billion from this one-time fee.
But in the messages on this occasion there is such a curious clause that the business has bargained for: "minus investments." Therefore, when they deduct from the profit from which they want to take this money, also the amount of investments that large companies made last year as part of adapting to the "new reality" and import substitution, I think they will not even receive these 250 billion rubles.
So this one–time collection... there was a lot of noise, there were a lot of screams, there were a lot of passions, and God forbid if they get at least 200, or even less. And this, as you understand, with the current state of the state budget, in general, is like a dead poultice. So, for two or three days of expenses on the current scale…