Is Russia’s Economic Crisis Over?
MOSCOW – Has Russia’s economic crisis ended? That depends on who you ask. Ask Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, or any official of his United Russia party, and you will be told, “Of course it is over.” They will even produce proof in the form of an unemployment rate that does not rise, unprecedented increases in pensions, and strong growth in construction and metal-working.
Of course, all these comparisons are made with how things stood last month rather than with the country’s pre-crisis economic performance. Then there is another “miracle” that the government is starting to trumpet, one discovered in August 2009: an increase in Russia’s population. Unfortunately, in no month before or since have births outpaced deaths.
Ask a member of the opposition whether the crisis has ended, and you will be told that it is only just beginning. Gazprom’s production is falling at a dizzying pace; the country’s single-industry “mono-towns” are dying.