Every Russian citizen owes the equivalent of $4,200 after the country’s total external debt skyrocketed to $624 billion during the last year, according to official data.
It appears that Russia is good at amassing not only its gold reserves, but also debt.The country’s total foreign debt reached a new height of $614 billion in 2012, or 10.5% of country’s GDP, Russia’s Audits Chamber’s report says. This is 16.1% more than the country’s gold and foreign currency reserves. Debt servicing in 2012 amounted to over $1 billion.
This amount is equal to what Russia spends on housing and public utilities, culture and filmmaking combined, according to the Audits Chamber’s Chairman Sergey Stepashin.
The Audits Chamber is concerned about the country’s corporate debt, which also grew significantly. In 2013 eleven companies with state participation will be subjected to a check on the effectiveness of their debt policies, according to an auditor at the Audits Chamber Nikolay Beskhmelnitsyn, Novaya Gazeta daily reports.
But things are not as bad as they sound according to expert estimations.
"The share of the corporate sector accounts for about 90% of the total external debt of the Russian Federation,” CEO of the company" 2K Audit – Business Consulting / Morison International Tamara Kasyanov told Nezavisimaya Gazeta.
Thus, the average burden on each Russian comes to just over $400. Certainly, average Russian is not responsible for Gazprom's huge debts for the South Stream gas pipeline project to southern Europe, or the billions of dollars Rosneft has to pay to BP for buying its share of TNK-BP.
Some experts believe the new corporate debt figures are not something to be afraid of.
“We could start to worry if the cumulative credit volume gets more than 80-100% of Russia’s GDP. But the current volume is 30%, it’s not much by international standards,” head of investment division at Solid company, Mikhail Korolyuk, told Nezavisimaya Gazeta.
The debt of $624 billion is insignificant for the scale of Russian economy, it’s less than 20% of GDP, believes analyst from Aforex Narek Avakyan.
“To compare, government foreign debt of Germany is around 65% of its GDP. China, which has over $3.5 trillion in gold and foreign currency reserves, has the debt of 22% of its GDP. In France this figure is more than 100%, and this is without corporate debts,” Avakyan told Nezavisimaya Gazeta.
The world’s leaders by external debt (the total public and private debt) are the European Union and the United States with over $16 trillion debt each. Particularly, the US National Debt has ballooned to over $16.5 trillion. With the US population of around 300 million, that comes to $55,000 per person.