Russia’s ‘High Income’ Status Despite Sanctions


The World Bank has elevated Russia from an ‘upper-middle income’ to a ‘high-income’ country, a classification it last held in 2014.

Russia’s Economic Resilience

  • Global Rankings: Russia is 72nd in per-capita GNI and 53rd in purchasing power parity worldwide.
  • GDP Growth: In 2023, Russia saw a 3.6% increase in real GDP and a 10.9% increase in nominal GDP, driven by trade (+6.8%), the financial sector (+8.7%), and construction (+6.6%).
  • Economic Activity: The World Bank noted a significant rise in military-related activities in Russia.

Why Sanctions Were Ineffective

  • Oil and Gas Exports: Sanctions on Russia were not as severe as those on Iran or Venezuela. While fossil fuel exports to Western Europe decreased, overall export volumes remained stable.
  • Investment Recovery: Investment bounced back in 2023, contributing 4.5 percentage points to GDP growth, thanks to:
    • Increased funding for defense and manufacturing.
    • Domestic production replacing some imports, leading to new production facilities.
    • Some multinational companies remained, anticipating the end of the war and lifting of sanctions.
  • Consumption: Private consumption rebounded, adding 2.9 percentage points to GDP growth, fueled by strong credit availability and a robust labor market (unemployment at 3%).
    • Monetary incentives for military recruitment helped sustain consumer spending.
  • Government Spending: Fiscal policies contributed 1.2 percentage points to GDP growth, with defense spending estimated at 7% of GDP.
  • Sanction Maneuvering: Russian policymakers have developed strategies to mitigate the impact of sanctions.
  • Central Bank Policies: The Russian central bank’s hawkish monetary policies also supported economic growth.

World Bank’s Income Rankings

  • Classification: The World Bank categorizes economies into four groups based on per-capita gross national income (GNI) in US dollars: low, lower-middle, upper-middle, and high.
  • High-Income Criteria: $14,005 or more per person.
  • Recent Upgrades: Russia, Bulgaria, and Palau have been upgraded to high-income status.

Ukraine’s Improved Ranking

  • Economic Status: Ukraine moved from a lower-middle-income to an upper-middle-income country.
  • Reason for Improvement: This change was primarily due to the base effect and a resurgence of economic activity in the western and northern regions, partly influenced by the war.

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