Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Many Countries are Now Getting Poorer but Russia is Doing So in Its Own Unfortunate Way, Shelin Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, February 16 – Moscow has released a spate of economic statistics for 2020 which show that Russia is becoming poorer, as are many countries during the pandemic, but it is doing so in its own way, with half of the population more or less keeping even or advancing and the other half suffering far more than the all-Russian figures, Sergey Shelin says.

            It is critical to keep this in mind because while the overall figures are in the same range as for many countries, the fact is that the declines they show are hitting half of all Russians while not affecting the other half very much at all, the Rosbalt commentator says (

            Russians who work for the government or for state enterprises have largely avoided the worst of the declines, while those who are employed by the private sector or on pensions have been hit at rates twice those of the figures Moscow is releasing now for the population as a whole.

            Those are the overarching conclusions Shelin draws from Russian government figures, but his analysis is worth following more closely. According to Moscow, the real disposable incomes of the population fell by 3.5 percent, worse than the decline of the GDP “but all the same not by much.”

            The government also says that “the average monthly pay of workers of organizations not only did not fall in 2020 but on the contrary, rose by 2.2 percent in real terms.” This combination is possible only because the half of the workforce employed by the government did well, while those employed by others did far worse than the average.

            They suffered rising unemployment, decreasing ability to buy basic goods, and an inability to take place of low interest rates that might have allowed them to purchase apartments or durable goods, something “the happy half” of the population employed by the government could and did.

            “The president and the government say,” Shelin continues, “that they do not forget for a minute about the increase in prices for food.” But their own policies have contributed to this rise which hits the unhappy half the population far harder than the “happy” one.

            In most countries, the unhappy half of the population would be protesting and demanding change; but this group in Russia is not yet doing so and it doesn’t seem likely, the Rosbalt commentator concludes, that “this will happen anytime soon.”

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