Laurie Taylor briefly interviews the authors of the controversial Lancet article on Post-Soviet privatization on his Thinking Allowed. His discussion with Megan Comfort that follows on women who have boyfriends and husbands in prison is worth a listen too.
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By Sean — 10 years ago
The Russian financial magazine Finans has published more proof that capitalism under Putin is doing just fine. Fine for the Russia elite that is. Over the last year, Finans reports in its yearly tally of Russian super rich, the number of Russian billionaires has shot from 61 to 101. Their combined wealth comes to $715.3 billion and the top ten have a total wealth of $221 billion. Here are the top five richest Russians:
1. Oleg Deripaska, $40 billion, sole owner of Basic Element and chairman of Russian Aluminum.
2. Roman Abramovich, $23 billion, owner of Millhouse Capital and governor of Chukotka.
3. Vladimir Lisin, $22.2 billion, chairman of Novolipetsk Steel.
4. Mikhail Fridman, $22.2 billion, one of the main holders in Alfa Group.
5. Aleksei Mordashov, $22.1 billion, chairman of Severstal.
Finance and metals are what feeds the coffers of Russia’s super rich. Those and a good dose of political connections.
An even more interesting statistic is that Russia only trails the United States in the number of billionaires. There are over 400 American billionaires according to Forbes. Their net worth is around $1.54 trillion as of 2007. What are the sources of wealth for the top five richest Americans? The list includes Bill Gates ($59 billion), Warren Buffet ($52 billion), Sheldon Adelson ($28 billion), Lawrence Ellison ($26 billion), and Sergei Brin ($18.5 billion). Technology, investment and hotels/casinos serve as their sweet meats.Post Views: 45
By Sean — 9 years ago
Russia outer face is one of a reemerging, “assertive” power while its inner core is rotting. That’s what demographer Murray Feshbach argues in his latest comment, “Behind the Bluster, Russia is Collapsing,” in the Washington Post.
Russia’s demographic problem is well known. Russia’s population declined by 237,800 in 2007, as the number of deaths was greater than the number of births by 477,770. This was better than in 2006 when the the number of deaths exceeded births by 687,100, but figure remains startling nonetheless. The main projection most experts cite is that by 2050, Russia’s population will decline by 30%. Not much for a resurgent power to celebrate there.
The Russian government has taken notice, but in pure campaignist fashion has turned to making June 12, Russia Day, into “sex day” to promote procreation. Officially called “Give Birth to a Patriot on Russia Day,” was the brainchild of Ulyanovsk governor Sergei Morozov to get women to squeeze out a few more for the Motherland. A variety of incentives are offered to couples who gave birth of this golden day: refrigerators, TV sets, washing machines and also cold hard cash. According to Yasha Levine, the grand prize was a brand new Russian jeep aptly titled the UAZ-Patriot.
Russia’s efforts to increase births don’t stop at the ridiculous. There are other practical, though also ineffective, measures being taken to increase the population. One is an emerging anti-abortion movement. Americans will be surprised to find that in Russia anti-abortionists don’t reside in the church. Rather, they are found among the very people and in the very clinics that perform abortions. Nor is the concern about some soul filled zygote or the threshold of life, but about women’s health and population decline.
Still, however noble these efforts my be, the problem as Feshbach outlines is not more breeding as it is keeping the ones you have alive and healthy. As he rhetorically asks, “So what’s killing the Russians? All the usual suspects — HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, alcoholism, cancer, cardiovascular and circulatory diseases, suicides, smoking, traffic accidents — but they occur in alarmingly large numbers, and Moscow has neither the resources nor the will to stem the tide.”
Here is a sample of his startling statistics (these are also statistics he presented at a talk at UCLA last spring, which for any naysayers are not his concoction but are based on Russian government figures and the work of Russian demographers):
Three times as many Russians die from heart-related illnesses as do Americans or Europeans, per each 100,000 people.
Tuberculosis deaths in Russia are about triple the World Health Organization‘s definition of an epidemic, which is based on a new-case rate of 50 cases per 100,000 people.
Average alcohol consumption per capita is double the rate the WHO considers dangerous to one’s health.
About 1 million people in Russia have been diagnosed with HIV or AIDS, according to WHO estimates.
Using mid-year figures, it’s estimated that 25 percent more new HIV/AIDS cases will be recorded this year than were logged in 2007.
He goes on,
And then there’s tuberculosis — remember tuberculosis? In the United States, with a population of 303 million, 650 people died of the disease in 2007. In Russia, which has a total of 142 million people, an astonishing 24,000 of them died of tuberculosis in 2007. Can it possibly be coincidental that, according to Gennady Onishchenko, the country’s chief public health physician, only 9 percent of Russian TB hospitals meet current hygienic standards, 21 percent lack either hot or cold running water, 11 percent lack a sewer system, and 20 percent have a shortage of TB drugs? Hardly.
TB, the famed disease of the 19th century taking 24,000 lives a year and the reasons for its death touch are inadequate medicines and facilities. That’s scary indeed.
I have only one quibble with Feshbach. And it’s not about his figures or the seriousness of the issue. It’s about his juxtaposing Russia’s recent projecting of its external power with internal decay as if it is some kind of contradiction. Not so in the least. It is precisely when a power begins to rot from the inside does it flex its imperial muscle on the outside. There’s just nothing better, or it seems more ideologically effective, than displacing an internal crisis on to the body of the external Other.
Thanks to frequent SRB commentor Kolya for pointing to the article.Post Views: 40
By Sean — 6 years ago
There’s a lot of ways to measure the economic health of a country: per capita income, wealth, inequality, employment, poverty level, etc. The list is virtually endless. Another way is by measuring the average amount of meat a person consumes. Yes, meat, that juicy, protein filled delight, the consumption of which is a testament to people literally living off the fat of the land. Sure meat consumption can’t be reduced to wealth. A lot of other factors go into it too–culinary culture, religion, geographic location, climate, to name a few. Still per capita meat consumption statistics do seem to correlate to a population’s economic status.
Slon.ru reports that yearly per capita meat consumption in Russia is 63 kilograms per person. A respectable number compared to the rest of the world, but a good 40 to 50 kilos behind other meat-centric peoples like the Americans and Western Europeans. But where Russia’s carnivorousness places in global statistics isn’t the real point. What’s more revealing is how they compare to past Russian consumption.
As Slon.ru notes, the Putin years have witnessed a meat boom. In 1999, Russians consumed an average 41 kilos of flesh a year. That has shot up by 20 kilos in the last ten years. In this sense, whatever one says about Putin, he has brought home the bacon. Nevertheless, there are important regional differences. Assuming that the statistics collected by the Ministry of Health approach an accurate estimate, regional difference can be quite stark. For example, a person devours 99 kilos of meat in Kalmykia, while only 31 kilos in Dagestan. Or while the Ministry of Health says that the normal consumption of meat is 70-75 kilos a year, only 16 Russian provinces meet this norm. Only four regions average more than 80 kilos: Kalmykia, Moscow province, Yakutia, and Sakhalin. Slon.ru has provided a province by province breakdown.
The statistic that I find most interesting, and revealing about post-Soviet Russia is that while meat consumption has increased dramatically over the last ten years, it still falls short of the USSR peak of 69 kilos in 1989. A few other interesting things to note are that meat consumption rose a dramatic 10 kilos from 1985-1989, the perestroika years. Also, there were no statistics between 1989-1995, a sure indicator of the collapse of the Russian state. But when measurement of meat was resumed in 1995, consumption had plummeted to 50 kilos per person. It bottomed out in 1999, after the Russian economy crashed and burned, to around 41 kilos. Finally, meat consumption leveled off in 2008 when the economic crisis hit Russia, but began to rise a year later suggesting a strong recovery on an everyday level.
And this is what I find so revealing about these statistics on meat consumption: they paint a picture of how the average Russian experiences the economy on an everyday level. In a world where we are fed abstract figures about GDP, stock market percentages, or monetary rates, the stats on meat are refreshing because they return the economy to where it matters most: people’s bellies.Post Views: 149