The key policy themes for 2020 will revolve around the implementation of National projects, with expectations from the government pointing to the peak in the related fiscal spending being reached in 2020-2021. Our view is that with the more coherent implementation of the National projects (particularly in terms of the coordination between the federal government and the regional administrations) the growth effects of public spending may increase raising the rate of economic expansion next year closer to 2%. Another important development next year will be the allocation of part of the National Wellbeing Fund in excess of the 7% of GDP threshold to fiscal spending. In case this involves the conversion of hard-currency to roubles on the open market this may exert additional pressure on the rouble to appreciate.
In the monetary policy sphere the challenge for the CBR will be to get a firmer handle on inflation dynamics and align more closely it forecasts and targets with actual inflation dynamics. The weakness in inflationary dynamics and the decline in inflation to less than 3% in the course of 2020 may be more of a reflection of the weakness in demand, which raises the question of how demand is likely to be supported next year. Our view is that the macroeconomic policy mix will increasingly involve greater fiscal loosening with monetary policy stimulus remaining restrained.
The external backdrop in 2019 may be categorized as being broadly favourable, given the reduced sanctions pressure, the relatively comfortable level of oil prices (partly on the back of the OPEC+ measures) and increasing inflows into Russia’s financial instruments (both equity and fixed income). This has further scope to improve next year with potential progress on the Russia-Ukraine settlement or the related discussion on the relaxation of the EU sanctions pressure coming on the back of the headway in the Minsk process. On the other hand the sanctions rhetoric may well be reignited closer to US presidential elections, oil price decline on the back of weak demand and rising supply, as well as lingering concerns with respect to the global economic slowdown. On the latter point, a slowdown in China may be considered as an increasingly important vulnerability, given the rising prominence of China in Russia’s trade and investment flows.