Vladimir Putin’s April 2017 decision to put it there rather than directly under the prime minister as it had been is often cited in the expert community as creating the kind of conflict of interest that guarantees problems: it means that the ministry responsible for growth controls the agency that tells the world whether there has been any.
The situation got worse, the editors say, when Rosstat’s longtime head, Aleksandr Surinov, was replaced in December by a young technocrat, Pavel Malkov, who came from the ranks of that ministry. To no one’s surprise, the new man reported growth that the older experts had not seen – and thereby killed any reason to believe Rosstat ever again.
“The restoration of trust requires public control over Rosstat’s work,” Nezavisimaya gazeta says. Handing it back to the prime minister’s office is not enough. A better approach could be to make it an independent agency like the Accounting Chamber. Other countries work hard to keep their statisticians honest and credible; Russia should do no less.