Banking system stabilization and public sector expansion in Russia
Bank stabilization measures adopted by the Russian authorities since 2008 have benefited core state-owned financial institutions to a greater extent than other market participants. Public sector keeps swelling at the expense of domestic private sector. According to the author’s methodology, by January 2010 state-controlled banks possessed over 50 percent of all bank assets, thus putting Russia in the same league with China and India. Development banking and policy lending expand. A feature distinguishing Russia is gradual substitution of direct state control by indirect state ownership in the shape of corporate pyramids headed by state-owned enterprises and state-owned banks. We construct a dataset of bank-level statistical data for the period between 2001 and 2010 and find that quasi-private banks (indirectly state-owned banks) were the fastest growing subgroup. Nationalization and rehabilitation of failed banks was carried out by state-controlled banks and entities rather than by federal executive authorities directly. We suggest that the response of the Russian authorities to bank instability was consistent with long-term trends in the banking system evolution. Anti-crisis measures of 2008-9 re-aligned the sector with the traditional model of banking that rests upon dominant state-owned banks, directed lending, protectionism, administrative interference and elements of price controls. Increased government ownership of banks and control over lending activity are unlikely to be fully dismantled after the crisis is over. This scenario can nevertheless accommodate a tactical retreat of the state from non-core assets in the financial sector, leaving control over 3 largest institutions intact.