Thursday, April 14, 2016

Putin’s Right-Hand Woman: Elvira Sakhipzadovna Nabiullina

Before the oil price collapse, oil had been a major source of revenue for Russia, Heroically, Elvira Nabiullina, Russia's central bank president, resisted those who wanted her to recklessly print more rubles when the oil revenues shrank dramatically.

Economist magazine provides some background:
Elvira Nabiullina first encounter with capitalism came during her university days, when she enrolled in a course called “Critique of Western Economic Theory”. It was an unusual start for a modern central banker. These days she embodies another contradiction. Russia’s economy has been held back for years by corruption and rent-seeking, and more recently by Western sanctions and the low price of oil and gas, the country’s main exports. Yet the Central Bank of Russia (CBR) is a model of competent, technocratic policymaking. Since Ms Nabiullina became governor in 2013, the CBR has kept Russia’s economy, awful though it is, out of worse trouble.

The soft-spoken Ms Nabiullina has humble roots. Her mother worked in a factory; her father was a chauffeur. For years she has been at the centre of Russia’s turbulent transition to a market economy. When Vladimir Putin became president in 2000, he proclaimed a break with the chaos of the 1990s. But when it came to economics “Putin didn’t have clear ideas,” says Yevgeny Yasin, a former economy minister. He thus entrusted economic policy to a cadre of professionals with orthodox views, including Ms Nabiullina, who became deputy economy minister in 2000 and minister in 2007, an experience she calls “the most influential” on her approach to economics...

To maintain reserves when the oil price began to fall, Ms Nabiullina accelerated a plan to allow the rouble to float. It fell by 40% against the dollar in 2015 alone. Propping up the rouble would have been popular, since it would have preserved ordinary Russians’ purchasing power, but it would have meant burning through the country’s reserves again...

Ms Nabiullina’s critics say the CBR’s tight monetary policy is the culprit, since it cripples investment. But corporate profits rose by 50% last year as the rouble value of foreign earnings jumped; companies have plenty of cash to invest. In regular surveys, manufacturers cite policy uncertainty, not high interest rates, as a big constraint. Ms Nabiullina agrees. “Our economic downturn is mostly the result of structural factors,” she says. What worries her most is not protracted low oil prices, but “how quickly and dynamically” Russia can improve its business environment.

Nabiullina, according to Bloomberg, has stated that she is familiar with the writings of free market economist Robert Higgs.

A Russian economist visiting San Francisco told me last year:
 "Nabiullina studied under Yevgeny Yasin. He is considered the father of liberal economic reforms in Russia. Those that studied under Yasin, like Nabiullina, were all exposed to Western economists. They read them all. She would have been exposed to Higgs."

1 comment:

  1. Correct me if my memory is faulty here, but didn't the CFR send you a map last week which showed that Russia's monetary policy was currently looser than that of the US?