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Head of the State Duma Financial Market Committee on de-dollarization, digital ruble and mortgages – RT in Russian

The first prototype of the digital ruble may appear in Russia in the fall of 2021, while over the next two to three years, the electronic currency will enter the country’s internal settlements. Anatoly Aksakov, chairman of the State Duma Committee on the Financial Market, spoke about this in an exclusive interview with RT. According to him, the authorities also plan to extend the preferential mortgage program in an updated form. Residents of specific regions are expected to fall under the initiative. In addition, Aksakov noted that Russia continues to gradually abandon the use of the dollar in trade and, together with a number of other states, is increasing settlements in national currencies. Such a policy helps to protect the economy from possible external restrictions, the deputy stressed.

– On July 1, 2021, the preferential mortgage program at 6.5% per annum should end in Russia. Earlier, the Prime Minister instructed to prepare proposals for the further implementation of this initiative by April 15th. What ideas are the authorities currently considering?

– Preferential mortgages have shown their effectiveness. The initiative has qualitatively stimulated the demand for real estate and thereby supported the construction industry during the pandemic. So, at the end of 2020, more housing was built in Russia than in 2019. In total, the share of preferential mortgages accounted for almost 30% of all housing loans issued in the country.

Thus, we want to extend the program, at least in a modified form. Now specific categories of citizens are being determined who will be able to apply for benefits. These are primarily young families, as well as Russians with children.

At the same time, we expect that the initiative will be extended to economically weak regions, where mortgages could support both people and related industries, including construction, which ultimately will stimulate the development of the subject of the country itself. As a result, jobs will be created, and the region’s budgetary capacity will grow. Due to this, local authorities will be able to allocate more funds for social benefits and investment in the development of the region itself.

The Central Bank has already named 24 regions where preferential mortgages can be extended. We will work to expand this list.

– Will the further implementation of the program lead to another round of growth in real estate prices?

– In many ways, the value of real estate in 2020 increased precisely in those regions where the supply of housing was limited. Therefore, when selecting regions, it will be necessary to look at this component, so that the provision of preferential mortgages does not depreciate due to price increases.

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    Anatoly Aksakov on real estate prices in Russia

At the same time, demand has stimulated the construction industry, so more residential areas will appear with a small time lag. Now prices have stabilized and it is obvious that further such a strong growth will not occur, because there will be enough supply on the market.

– At a meeting in March, the Bank of Russia for the first time since December 2018 raised the key rate to 4.5% per annum. What level, in your opinion, can the key rate reach by the end of 2021?

– The Central Bank regulates inflation using the rate. At the end of 2020, the growth of consumer prices in Russia went beyond the target (4%) and amounted to 4.8%. The negative trend continued at the beginning of this year. According to the latest data, inflation has accelerated to 5.8%.

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Against this background, the regulator was forced to raise the key rate in order to cool inflation expectations in the market. We expect that at the next meetings the Bank of Russia will not raise the rate, since the situation is now gradually stabilizing.

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At the same time, if inflation starts to grow again, the regulator, of course, can raise the rate a little more. Nevertheless, the level of the key rate is unlikely to exceed 5% per annum in 2021.

– Recently, the topic of de-dollarization has been actively discussed again. Both Vyacheslav Volodin and Sergei Lavrov recently announced that Russia would give up the dollar. In addition, at the end of February 2021, the Ministry of Finance reduced the shares of dollars and euros from 45 to 35% in the NWF. What is the main reason for this?

– The key reason is geopolitical risks. Sanctions rhetoric from the United States is constantly on the international agenda, so we are taking steps to protect our economy. So, over the past three years, the share of the dollar in our international reserves has been halved: from 45% to 22%.

Work in this direction is ongoing, including in trade relations. For example, within the framework of the Eurasian Economic Union, the share of settlements in national currencies is already 75%. With China, our indicator has reached 25%. In addition, the share of the ruble in servicing Russian exports to India rose to 60%, and in trade with Turkey, the share of the ruble in servicing imports exceeded 30%.

We understand that it is still impossible to talk about a complete departure from the dollar in calculations. Russia still supplies a significant part of its raw material exports to the EU for the American currency, and not for the euro. This is largely due to the long-established financial traditions.

Nevertheless, it is obvious that in the near future we will be phasing out the dollar in this vein. Similar initiatives are shown not only by our country, but also by a number of other states.

  • Anatoly Aksakov on de-dollarization and the creation of new payment systems

Thus, Russia and China have already created their counterparts SWIFT (international interbank system for transferring information and making payments), Europe announced the launch of its independent system. India has asked us to submit materials about the Russian analogue of SWIFT for its further use on its territory. Negotiations are also underway with Turkey on this matter.

Thus, the unfair behavior of the United States in the international arena encourages countries to go to other formats of interaction and gradually abandon the dollar and American financial systems.

– That is, our economy is ready for a possible disconnection from SWIFT as part of the US sanctions policy?

– We rank fourth in terms of the volume of transactions in the system. Therefore, I do not believe that the United States will want to lose such a significant partner.

The fact is that the disconnection of one participant from this financial chain of transactions risks turning into a collapse of the entire system. That is, such a decision can affect not only us, but also hit the European economy and the American one. It is unlikely that sane politicians will take such a step.

However, even in the event of such a development of events, we will cope. We already have our own analogue: all settlements within the country will proceed as before. And with a number of countries, including China, the EU, India and Turkey, we will quickly establish cooperation.

– According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), over the past five years, the share of the dollar in world reserves has dropped from 65.54 to 60.46% – the lowest level since 1995. What could be the reason for such dynamics? Should we expect the trend to continue in the coming years?

– Now the US share in the world economy is gradually decreasing. We see how the influence of the same fast-growing India and China is increasing. Well, we, of course, are also trying to build up our positions in this sense. Therefore, the active development of the economies of different countries leads to a natural reduction in the role of the dollar.

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There is also a political aspect: the aggressive and unpredictable behavior of the United States leads to the fact that confidence in them is diminishing. Nobody wants to deal with those who strongly influence the world currency, so countries are taking steps to reduce this influence.

– In addition to creating its own analogue of SWIFT, the Russian financial authorities are now working on the launch of the digital ruble. Is there an understanding when a new form of money may come into widespread use?

– The digital ruble is the highest form of money at this stage. Last fall, the Central Bank announced the start of work in this direction. In the near future, the Central Bank will release a scenario for the development of a digital currency, and by autumn, most likely, it will already prepare a prototype of a digital ruble.

Probably, at the end of 2021 or the beginning of 2022, testing of this form of money may begin, and in two or three years the electronic currency will be tightly included in our calculations. It is worth noting that, unlike cryptocurrencies, the risks for holders of digital rubles are minimal, since the issuer in the person of the Central Bank is known, there is financial support. In fact, this is the same ruble, but in digital form.

– What legislative initiatives is your committee currently developing? When are they planned to be presented?

– Some of our initiatives are aimed at enabling the Central Bank to restrict the issuance of loans to already borrowed clients. We have adopted a law that banks must determine the maximum debt burden of the population. It should not exceed 80%. We are talking about a situation when citizens give more than 80% of their income to repay loans.

We are also working on improving the legislation related to individual investment accounts (IIA). We want to stimulate IIA of the second type, when holders receive a tax deduction after transactions with securities, and not immediately. In our opinion, this will increase interest in this instrument.

In addition, we are working on digitalizing paper workflows. Now the content of archives, documents, work books and other papers takes up a lot of space and requires significant costs. Organizations will be able to destroy tons of documents and reduce rental costs.

We also plan to approve the legal framework for the digital profile bill. It involves the creation of a borrower profile based on data on his credit history and loans already received by him. The goal of the project is to improve the quality of information exchange between banks, government agencies and individuals.

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