Staunton, VA, January 12, 2017 – While the attention of Russians and others around the world have been diverted – and one should ask be asking what they have been diverted from and why – ten pieces of bad even disastrous economic news have come out from or about Russia in the last 24 hours alone.
Here is the list:
1. The World Bank says that Moscow now lacks the money to fulfill its social contract with the Russian people.
2. Moscow’s Higher School of Economics says that the real incomes of Russians fell for the 25th straight month.
3. Deputy Prime Minister Olga Golodets says almost five million Russians are receiving the minimum income in Russia.
5. Ten percent of Russians are again receiving at least part of their pay under the table, meaning that it is not taxed and that it will not be used for calculating their pensions.
6. Given falling incomes, Russians are drinking, eating and travelling less, substituting potatoes for meat and fish and having consumption patterns that compare unfavorably with urban Russians at the end of the tsarist period.
7. Half of Russians don’t have any savings and a third don’t have any credit cards.
8. Putin wants to cut vodka prices but the finance ministry wants to boost them – and new data show that they are going up.
9. Those serving in the military are told they will go to the head of the line as far as receiving unemployment benefits when they return to the private sector, hardly a great advertisement for how their efforts are raising Russia from its knees.
10. Russian officials and experts are now openly discussing how the country will cope when its reserve fund runs out, likely later this year after a serious collapse in its balance over the last one.
But perhaps the worst news of all is yet another report today: new surveys show that despite how bad things are getting, Russians are living up to Dostoyevsky’s dictum that human beings are not pigs and can get used to anything by saying that they can cope with the situation.
One reason that Russians may be saying that is that they are focusing on other things, such as Putin’s “victory” in Syria or the stories about Donald Trump. To the extent that is the case, Russians and the rest of us can see more such provocations by the Kremlin dictator in the weeks ahead.