Net capital outflows from Russia were at their highest level ever in 2014.
Net outflows by companies and banks reached $US151.5 billion in 2014, more than two times as much as in 2013, according to the Russian Central Bank. The last time the level of outflows was this high was during the global financial crisis in 2008, when it reached $US133.6 billion.
The fourth quarter in particular saw a huge spike. Net outflows surged up to $US72.9 billion, from $US16.9 billion in the previous quarter, following the drop in oil prices and the ruble’s plunge.
In dire circumstances like this, a country may choose to implement capital controls in an attempt to curb outflows, and people are worried that Russia is getting to that point.
“We now think that Russia is willing to tap more intensively one of the dearest reserves it still has: central bank credibility,” Wolf-Fabian Hungerland, an economist at Berenberg Bank in Hamburg, told Bloomberg. “Should capital outflows not decline, the last option effective in the eyes of the central bank would be capital controls.”
“Russia in 2006 became the only one of the biggest emerging economies to allow unrestricted flows of money across borders,” Bloomberg reports. “Reintroducing such limits would undermine the country’s monetary-policy achievements, [central bank head Elvira] Nabiullina said in October.”
But so far, officials have repeatedly insisted that Russia has no plans to limit capital movement.
Russia is currently on the edge of its first recession since 2009. Its economy took a serious beating following the sanctions imposed by the EU and US over the country’s invasion of Ukraine, along with plunging oil prices worldwide.
Additionally, the ruble was one of the worst-performing currencies in 2014. Over the course of the year, the ruble fell approximately 40% against the dollar. It is currently trading at around 65 rubles per dollar.