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

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs