An Engineer looks at Russia by Wal Hannington

By Wal Hannington

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However, the balance sheet of both the CBR Hoover Press : Rabushka DP2 HPRABU0200 03-01-99 07:20:51 rev2 page 44 44 / Fixing Russia’s Banks Table 1. Standard Balance Sheet of Russian Commercial Banks as of January 1, 1996 (all values in billions of current rubles) Assets Reserves Foreign assets Claims on the government Claims on enterprises (performing) Claims on other financial institutions Total Assets Memorandum item: bank liquidity (nonborrowed reserves) Liabilities 36,712 46,149 62,639 196,247 525 342,272 28,707 Demand deposits Time deposits Foreign exchange deposits 69,332 69,241 55,256 Government deposits 9,741 Central Bank credit Bank-issued bills of exchange, equal to quasi– Central Bank credit Foreign liabilities Undistributed liabilities Total Liabilities 8,005 Equity 11,859 29,970 22,182 275,586 66,688 the OECD Economic Surveys 1997–1998: Russian Federation, which contains a special chapter on “Commercial Banking,” repeatedly complain of the difficulties in getting accurate information on the balance sheets of the banks.

For Russia, this would amount to fixing the nominal exchange rate of the ruble to a strong foreign currency, such as the dollar, to discipline the CBR’s conduct of monetary policy. Fixing the exchange rate, or creating a narrow band around which the ruble would be permitted to fluctuate, would, it was thought, help dampen inflationary expectations among holders of rubles, thereby reducing the velocity of money and inflation, even as prior monetary expansion temporarily continued to inflate the price level.

In short, Russia got on track to test a real monetary system through which it could conduct normal monetary policy operations. Serendipity: Prelude to a Monetary System Beginning in mid-1994, the Russian government, together with the CBR, considered using the exchange rate as a nominal anchor to achieve financial stabilization, a policy that seemed to have worked with considerable success in the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Poland in the 1990s and Israel in the mid-1980s, to give but four examples.

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