MOSCOW, Dec. 29 (UPI) -- With oil prices recovering, growth in the Russian economy may be twice as high as official government estimates, the country's finance minister said.
The Central Bank of Russia this week reported a net contraction for full-year 2016, though the level of decline has been less severe in the latter half of the year. The oil-dependent economy faced dual strains from the low price of oil and economic sanctions, but Russian Finance Minister Anton Siluanov said the overall outlook has improved.
Speaking with state broadcaster Rossiya, the minister said his projections for growth were better than the official expectation for gross domestic product of 0.6 percent in 2017.
"We believe this figure may be almost twice as high -- about 1-1.2 percent -- fairly feasible rates of economic growth," he said.
In a year-end press conference, Russian President Vladimir Putin referenced figures closer to official estimates, but said recovery was emerging in the face of external market and sanctions pressure. Herman Gref, the CEO at Sberbank, one of Russia's largest banks, said this week the nation's economy was resilient enough to handle a moderate downturn in crude oil prices.
Putin said the national budget for 2017 was pegged on oil priced at around $40 per barrel. The price for Brent crude oil, the international benchmark, was around $57 per barrel early Thursday.
Russia is party to a plan outlined by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries to curb production starting next week. The move is meant to offset the supply-side strains that pulled oil prices below $30 this year. Despite agreed cuts, OPEC said it expects Russia to produce an average 11.1 million bpd next year, against the estimated 11.05 million bpd for 2016.
In October, Moody's Investors Service revised its outlook for Russian banks to stable from negative on signs of emerging recovery. Nevertheless, Moody's said it expected the Russian economy to contract a full percentage point this year, though stabilization in crude oil prices would encourage positive growth in 2017.