Russia is producing less gas now than it did in 1999, even though Qatar over the same period has increased its output by more than seven times. Two years ago, Rosneft bought TNK-BP for $55 billion but now Rosneft itself is evaluated as being worth only “about $34 billion.
The only place where there has been any real growth as opposed to growth as a result of rising prices for raw materials has been in the non-state sectors. Under Putin, it has been the state rather than anything else that has been “the brake.”
Countries that experience a sudden burst in income either from rising world prices for their raw materials or because of increased production almost invariably invest in infrastructure, almost all countries that is except for Putin’s Russia, Inozemtsev points out. Over the last 16 years, Russia hasn’t put in place a single kilometer of contemporary high speed rail.
During the last two years, it has built 1200 kilometers of new roads annually, “four times less than was the case in 2000,” the first year of Putin’s power. In a similar war, Gazprom figures show that the country has managed to increase the level of gasification of Russian villages by 0.1 percent to 65.4 percent over the last 16 years.
At that rate, Inozemtsev says, “the task of complete gasification will be fulfilled at the start of the 22nd century.” Russian ports are handling fewer goods than they did earlier, and cargo on the Northern Sea Route today is lower by a lot (130,000 tons as against 460,000 tons) than it was when Putin came to office.
What has Putin offered Russians? “Only beautiful promises,” which keep being repeated each year and whose fulfillment is pushed off ever further into the future.
Putin has made the country more dependent on petroleum exports. In 1999, oil, oil products and gas formed 39.7 percent of all exports. By 2014, they made up 69.5 percent. But those who live by oil prices can die from them as well, especially if the economy is dependent on export earnings to make its way rather than on domestic production.
But despite all the money that poured into Russia for a time because of this oil and gas boom in exports, “no industrial transformation took place in Russia: in the course of all the Putin years, it was and remains the only one of the emerging markets where the growth of industrial production lags behind the rate of GDP growth.
Putin’s Russia is overwhelmingly dependent on imports in many sectors, and “if our ‘partners’ want to achieve the complete collapse of the Russian economy, it is sufficient for them to prohibit the import into the country of these supplies.” Meanwhile, pensions, education and health care have all been cut back or allowed to deteriorate.
And in foreign policy, the 16 years of Putin have not brought much to celebrate. His actions have transformed Ukraine from a friend to an enemy and driven away most of the former Soviet republics. He has begun a military operation in Syria only to discover that it will take more money than Moscow has.
This is not a record anyone should be proud of or that Russia can afford to see continued for much longer.
RBC reports today citing a Kremlin source that the ruling United Russia Party will avoid making any specific promises in the election campaign at least until June 2016. “It it is not very clear what can be promised and therefore [that] document will be abstract,” he says.
Further, the source indicated, local candidates will make “programmatic proposals” with “the most interesting of these” being included in the pre-election program. It is important to stress, he said, that ‘precisely these people from the lower levels will propose the programmatic theses.” While he did not say so, that could further fragment the party of power.
In previous elections, United Russia has simply used the statements of Vladimir Putin and Dmitry Medvedev as its program.
An example of a republic-based group that says it is “obligated to present its program for the elections” and has done so is the Karelian Republic Movement. In a new year’s address to the people of that republic, it says that it will continue to “seek to establish real federal relations between the center and the regions.”
The movement says that it will continue to “stand for the implementation of the letter and spirit of the basic law of our country, which defends the rights of the multi-national population of the country through the existence of national republics,” which in turn “are called on in the first instance to defend, support and develop the national uniqueness, traditions, culture and language of the native population that lives in them.”
“We see,” it continues, “that in recent times bureaucrats are trying to emasculate the Constitution of the country by violating some laws and adopting others which contribute to the harming of the rights of the indigenous nationalities.”
An example of Moscow’s overreach and anti-constitutional actions is the Russian law that blocks republics from calling their top official president, even when support for this is “very strong” among the local population as in Tatarstan. Other republics can learn from its actions and not fall victim to “the illegal intimidation of the bureaucrats from Moscow.”
People in these positions must be responsible “to the people who elected them and not to the bureaucrats and politicians from parties which ignore the federal system of the Russian Federation,” the movement declares. And it will seek a revision of the tax system so that the majority of money raised in a republic will stay there.
Because so many Russians remained at home generally, that helped retailers to increase sales, and many Russians who did travel within the country did so to make purchases at shopping centers, where customer traffic increased by 20 percent this year over last. The greatest increases were in theaters, game centers and restaurants.
More Russians were buying televisions and refrigerators this year than last, a reflection of their spending more time at home and of the falling value of the ruble against foreign currencies. But surveys of retailers found that in their view, people were behaving more normally than they did a year ago when the first shockwave of devaluation passed through the country.
With regard to New Year’s celebrations, Russian said they planned to spend seven percent less than last year, 29 percent said they were going to buy less expensive presents, and 40 percent said they planned to economize on spending for alcoholic beverages. Eleven percent more than last year – 70.7 percent – said they planned to celebrate at home.
Nonetheless, some restaurants benefitted because fewer people were travelling, and so too did museums. Moscow’s Tretyakov Gallery saw a huge boost in attendance, which officials there linked to the exhibit devoted to the 150th anniversary of popular Russian artist Valentin Serov.
A third fewer people bought tickets at movie theaters this year than last, but more spent money for online movies, one way Russians could but back in spending but keep themselves entertained.