Friday, January 26, 2018

‘Even the Weakest Economies Doing Better than Russia's since 2014,’ Shelin Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, January 25 – Over the last three years, the Russian economy has performed worse than all but one of the ten largest countries or economies, Sergey Shelin says; and as a result, its share of the world’s GDP has declined from 3.5 percent to 3.1 percent.  But it has also done worse than the next ten largest, most former Soviet states, and even most oil exporters.

            That is a remarkable development, one that justifies calling the situation in Russia “an economic anti-utopia” and not the success story that Vladimir Putin and his regime insist is the case, the Rosbalt commentator says. And there are reasons to think that this pattern isn’t going to change anytime soon (

                Using parity price-based figures expressed in 2017 dollars, Shelin continues, the world’s GDP rose during the period 2015 to 2017 by 10.3 percent. Russia’s GDP over the same period fell by 1.3 percent and now amounts to approximately four trillion US dollars.  In short, it is falling behind because “even the weakest are doing better” than it has.

            Of the ten largest countries measured by population or by the size of the economy, only Brazil did worse than Russia.  As a result, China’s economy has grown from 4.7 times the size of Russia’s to 5.7 times, and the US economy from 4.5 to 4.7 times as large. The same is true of the second ten largest economies, all of which grew during this period.

            Even among oil and gas exporters, all except Venezuela did better than Russia has, Shelin points out, growing more in most cases and declining less in the others. The countries of the former Soviet bloc saw their economies increase eight to 15 percent, and all of them, except Romania, had a higher GDP per capita than is the case in Russia.

            As for the countries of the former Soviet republics, the picture there is similar. In Central Asia, all the states except Kazakhstan saw double-digit growth over this period; and even Kazakhstan’s economy increased by 5.7 percent. Even there, the per capita GDP rose to 26,100 US dollars, “almost the same” as Russia’s and unlike Russia’s “growing.”

            In the Caucasus, the economies of Armenia and Georgia grew seven to ten percent over this three-year period, Shelin reports. Only oil-exporting Azerbaijan saw its economy fall by roughly the same amount as Russia’s, 2.9 percent. Ukraine’s fell as a result of revolution, war and the loss of territory in 2015 but after that it has been growing albeit slowly.

            “Only Belarus,” he says, tracked with the Russian economy and fell by five to six percent, the result not of some “objective causes” but rather, and again like Russia, “by the special features of the system.”  And even those countries in the third world that historically have done worse than others have mostly done better than Russia between 2014 and 2017.

            To claim that Russia is back economically is thus to engage in self-deception: Everyone else can see that it isn’t and more than unless it changes systematically, the next three years may feature much the same pattern with Russia falling ever further behind not just the West and China but nearly everyone else as well.

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