Staunton, December 14 – The Russian statistical agency says that 20.3 million Russians, nearly one in seven, now live in poverty according to official measures, a number that does not include those living in occupied Crimea and Sevastopol but one that is two million more than a year ago.
In reporting these figures today, Aleksey Golyakov of “Novyye izvestiya” points out that this figure is based on the minimum income that the government estimates is needed maintaining a decent standard of living and the actual incomes of Russians (newizv.ru/economics/2015-12-14/232084-armija-nishih-idet-v-nastuplenie.html).
Over the last year, the former has risen while real incomes have declined sharply, thus landing ever more Russians in poverty. This shift is widely recognized by Russians: a VTsIOM poll found that two-thirds of them say that “over the last five years, the number of poor in the country has risen,” with over 40 percent saying this is incompatible with Russia’s constitutional claim to be a social state.
Commenting on the results, Yevgeny Gontmakher, the deputy director of IMEMO, says that the Putin regime has behaved in such a way that it has been making the situation worse. At a time of crisis, most governments spend more on social needs in order to protect “the most valuable thing of all – human capital.”
But the current Russian regime has cut spending on health, education, and other social needs in order to boost spending on the force structures and the bureaucracy. Unless that changes, the share of Russians under the poverty line will continue to rise – and the share of Russians who see this as a problem will continue to increase.