The credit squeeze during Russia's early transition: A bank-based view



This paper asks whether Russia's protracted inflation stabilization might have caused a credit squeeze and hence might have contributed to the output collapse in the first three years of the Russian transition. Russian monetary policy was not restrictive as a whole. Still, the occurrence of a credit crunch is not excluded, because of the Russian central bank's heavy reliance on required reserves to curb the inflationary effects of monetized budget deficits. Due to methodological limitations, we are forced to concentrate on a cross-sectional analysis of bank liquidity in 1994, in order to find possible indications about Russia's monetary stance from the point of view of the lending channel. We cannot reject that the huge excess reserves of Russian banks in 1994 were at least partially due to excess liquidity. This suggests that there is no direct relation between the monetary policy of high required reserves and the observed credit crunch. The question of why banks preferred to hold excess liquidity deserves further attention. This question is still relevant, because Russian commercial banks have again accumulated excess reserves in 1999, in the aftermath of the banking crisis, triggered by the August-1998 crisis.