Saturday, August 29, 2020

Russia Now Building Only a Third as Many Kilometers of New Roads than It Did at Start of Putin Era, UN Report Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, August 26 – Even before the pandemic, which has reduced these figures further, Russia was building on average only 2500 kilometers of new hard-surface streets and roads annually between 2013 and 2019, far less than the 7900 in 2000 and the 4700 in 2008. And officials say there are no plans to increase the current rate in the next few years.

            For a country the size of the Russian Federation, which is after all the largest country in the world, this decline is making development far more difficult because people, goods and natural resources cannot be moved around in ways that will maximize the possibilities for growth especially in the public sector. 

            These data were assembled by Rosstat for Russia’s contribution to a United Nations report on sustainable economic development, a report that shows Russia continuing to make such small progress on the major indices that it is increasingly falling behind not only advanced countries but many in the developing world.

            The UN report was released earlier this summer, but it was largely ignored because of the pandemic. Now, it has been subject to a major review by Natalya Churkina of the Moscow Institue of Complex Strategic Research for Finversia (

            According to Churkina, Russia showed progress on each of the 17 measures of sustainable development. But “in comparison with many other countries, these results were not so significant” and Russia’s ranking has actually fallen even while it has continued to claim successes.

            Indeed, the analyst says, on most of them, “Russia has very low figures, significantly below the majority of developed and many major developing countries.”  That is because the report focuses on investment in people and their needs rather than machinery, and for Moscow over the last two decades, that has not been a priority.

            One example of this is the state of new highway construction. Another concerns poverty. Russia has very few people who live in extreme poverty, that is with an income of 1.90 US dollars a day or 4,000 rubles a month. But it has an enormous number of residents who live just above that abject state.

            Moreover, in 2019, more than 20 percent of the population in 11 federal subjects lived below the poverty level as established by the Russian government.  Nine of these were non-Russian republics; and most of the poor were households with three or more children, something that casts a shadow into the future.

            Given the current crisis, Churkina says, “the risks of an increase in poverty are only increasing.”  Russia has managed to boost life expectancy over the last decade, the report says; but the figures for its population remain below those in advanced countries and also below those in much of the developing world.

            The Russian government is investing a far smaller percentage of GDP in healthcare and education than the developed world and much of the developing world, a pattern that also will depress Russia’s possibilities in the future.  And despite many claims, it is not doing enough to reduce environmental pollution and the negative impact of that on people’s heatlh.

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