News / Europe

Russia Re-Industrializes as Energy Boom Fades

Russia Re-Industrializes as Energy Boom Fadesi
X
March 22, 2013 1:07 PM
For the last decade, Russia has been the world’s largest energy exporter, sometimes called “the Saudi Arabia of the snows.” Now, many economists say that oil and gas revenues are dropping and that Russia is starting to re-industrialize. James Brooke reports from Moscow.
James Brooke
For the last decade, Russia has been the world’s largest energy exporter, sometimes called “the Saudi Arabia of the snows.” Now, many economists say that oil and gas revenues are dropping and that Russia is starting to re-industrialize.

Post Soviet Russia is widely seen as an industrial rust belt. But here, in a new car making hub outside St. Petersburg, American car maker GM is investing to triple its production capacity.

Romuald Rytwinski, GM’s Manufacturing Manager for Russia, says the quality is world class.
 
“I was working 10 years as a plant manager in Western Europe,” said Rytwinski, a native of Poland. “And when I look at the cars we are making here, I’m very proud.  The quality of products, it’s as good as the best plants in Western Europe.”
 
With these new cars, Russia this year is to finally top the peak car production level of the Soviet Union - 2.2 million in 1985.
 
The rebirth of car making in Russia may signal the slow start of Russia’s re-industrialization.

Seeing the end of an oil boom
 
Anders Aslund, a Swedish economist, says that energy revenues are dictating new directions for Europe’s most populous nation.
 
“The oil price now seems to be leveling out, and you would expect it to go down a bit rather soon,” Aslund said on a visit to Moscow from Washington where he works for the Peterson Institute of International Economics. “And then the crowding out of other sectors by energy would diminish and at that time we will see a substantial revival of Russian manufacturing. “

Gazprom, Russia’s state gas exporting monopoly, is now offering European customers price discounts. With gas and oil production increasing around the world, Russia’s energy boom is slowing.
 
According to new report by the European Bank for Reconstruction & Development, Russia’s known oil reserves only allow for production to continue at current levels for 20 years. The comparable figure for Saudi Arabia is 70 years.
 
For now, Russia is highly vulnerable to energy prices. Oil and gas exports account for almost 70 percent of Russia’s export earnings and cover half of the federal budget.
 
With the end of this easy money in sight, foreign investors predict that Russia will be forced to embark on a new era of industrialization. During the Soviet era, the economy was closed and virtually all products were made at home.

Manufacturing a growth industry
 
Aslund, who has over 25 years of experience with Russia, links energy prices and local manufacturing: “The excessively high price level will decline and we'll see more economic reforms coming. And then lots of manufacturing will make sense.”
 
And while Europe is in recession, Russia is growing - by a forecasted 3 percent this year. Unemployment is only 5.8 percent - far below the levels of southern Europe.  A lead driver of growth is consumer demand, people making up for decades of Soviet deprivation by buying good quality cars, clothes, furniture, and housing.
 
Bernie Sucher is an American entrepreneur with 20 years experience in Russia. He sees continued growth for Russia: “This place, for whatever reasons, is still growing, and it is likely to continue to grow and at a pace that is obviously higher than the European Union, probably higher than the United States, and better than what we’re seeing in Brazil, to pick another big emerging economy where people seem to think that everything is wonderful.”
 
With lower energy revenues on the horizon, the word from the Kremlin to local authorities is to encourage manufacturing investment.

Last month, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev set an ambitious goal in a policy speech:  “We must support the export of high-tech products and services. By 2018 we must increase our non-energy exports by more than 50% as compared to 2012.”

At the GM plant outside St. Petersburg, Rytwinski, the Manufacturing Manager, says he feels a new reality taking hold.

“Before I came to Russia people were telling me it’s unpredictable, you know, permissions,” he said. “In two years, we had no plant disruptions, we have a very good material flow, we haven’t had any dispute with local authorities, we received all permissions on time.”

You May Like

Obama: Alaskans Feel Signs of Climate Change

They're seeing bigger storm surges as sea ice melts, more wildfires, erosion of glaciers, shorelines More

Katrina Brought Enduring Changes to New Orleans

The city’s recovery is the result of the people and culture the city is famous for, as well as newcomers and start-up industries More

Magical Photo Slides Show Native Americans in Late 1800s

Walter McClintock spent 20 years photographing the Blackfoot Indians and their vanishing culture at the dawn of the modern age More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs