Russian ruble convertibility may be limited during the crisis

Obligatory sale of foreign exchange earnings, purchase of currency with the permission of the authorities, a special account for certain operations: the right to impose such measures is requested by the government and the Central Bank of the Ministry of Finance.
Minister of Finance Anton Siluanov reported to Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev "on measures to modernize currency control" (Vedomosti got acquainted with a copy of the document, its authenticity was confirmed by two federal officials). We need to liberalize the currency legislation, Siluanov admits, for example, to abolish the mandatory return of export earnings to the country. But in return he asks to give the Central Bank and the government the right to introduce tough currency restrictions into the crisis.

Among them: demand from exporters to repatriate money, without fail to sell currency, get permission to buy currency, open special accounts for certain types of currency transactions and reserve money for them. Such amendments are proposed to be introduced into the law on currency control. Now foreign exchange operations between residents and non-residents can be conducted without restrictions.

These measures "just in case," explains the federal official: the experience of 2014 makes you be prepared for any situation, although there is no cause for concern now. Then a law was passed that gave the government the right to set the minimum share of settlements in rubles for export operations. The new norm will have a wide scope and will concern everyone, the official says, including those who temporarily invest in Russian assets. Investors can take measures in a negative way, he admits, promising to act carefully.

What will be considered as such a case, while being discussed, concludes the official. Everyone remembers that in December 2014 there was simply no currency on the market and President Vladimir Putin had to manually call large exporters, another official recalled, without explaining why they are now back to this topic.

In part, this may be due to the possibility of expanding US sanctions and imposing a ban on the ownership of Russia's sovereign debt, says BCS chief economist Vladimir Tikhomirov: imposing sanctions will create a strong tension in the bond market, especially sovereign, a lot of foreigners bought them over the past year because of high profitability, among them many Americans - this is threatening a sharp increase in demand for currency.

And if I find it?

On December 18, 2014, during a big press conference, President Vladimir Putin confessed that he had discussed the situation with the currency with some exporters: "Two days ago I talked with some of them on the phone on friendship and asked what you are holding, by the way, did not force to do anything. We need to pay on loans soon. And if you scrape on the suseks, you can go to the market? I thought, in a second he answers: well, we have $ 3 billion. $ 3 billion in zagashnike, it's not 30 cents. This is only for one company. "

During the crisis of 2014, the first deputy chairman of the Central Bank, Ksenia Yudaeva, called measures to limit the free flow of capital as counterproductive, and Putin assured that they did not plan to enter anything like this. In mid-November 2014, Yudaeva once again reported that the Central Bank was against the mandatory sale of part of the foreign exchange earnings and other currency restrictions, Siluanov also expressed a similar position on behalf of the government. The prime minister did not have any meetings on this topic, comments his spokesman, Natalia Timakova. The representative of the Central Bank could not comment on the letter promptly. The representative of the Ministry of Finance does not comment on the correspondence with the prime minister.

This is similar to what happened in 1997, when there was a licensing system for currency transactions, but it never really worked: the control did not work, recalls the then head of the Central Bank, Sergey Dubinin: "This system brought nothing but provocation of corruption, - those who wanted, received all the permits. " Now it is unclear how exactly they want to organize this control in such cases, Dubinin is skeptical: the Central Bank does not see all the operations, the movement across all accounts, if only you can see it, then only after the fact.

Dubinin does not see "some special situation for taking such urgent measures", but if there is a tightening of sanctions on the Iranian option, then a completely new life will start and no restrictions will save us. They also do not influence the ruble exchange rate, he continues: investors already know that there is no clean swim. A large player, for example, the Ministry of Finance, may appear in the market at a time of crisis and start supporting the ruble. Such measures can be partially applied, it is another matter that it is not necessary to introduce such manual measures into the law, says VEB's chief economist Andrei Klepach: "This can be done both by the Central Bank and the government, because the largest exporters are state-owned companies. The Finance Ministry hardly chose the right time, such tools are needed in case of panic situations, the market reaction to the tightening of sanctions in the summer showed that investors are generally serious ".

"I do not like it," commented the author of currency liberalization in the early 1990s. Petr Aven, having listened to the list of restrictions proposed by the Ministry of Finance. "Any form of currency control is usually ineffective, but sends a bad signal."