Thus, Rosstat managed, with the help of a bias in the sample of enterprises, to overestimate the growth of real wages by about two percentage points, as the Kholodny Raschet Telegram channel of Bloomberg Economics economist Alexander Isakov calls attention to
. According to Rosstat, real wages increased 10.5% year-over-year for June 2023, while their accumulated monthly growth, according to Rosstat, amounted to only 8.8% for June 2022-June 2023.
The slight discrepancy in relative figures should not mislead. For example, Rosstat revised
its estimate of the number of poor people in the country: in 2022 it was not 10.5% of the population, but 9.8%, the lowest level ever observed. Meanwhile, as the media project Esli Byt Tochnym (“to be precise”) calculated, thanks to Rosstat more than 3 million people dropped out of the poor category (and therefore as potential recipients of social support.
This is because Rosstat changed its calculation methodology: previously (the previous methodology was also very biased toward underestimating poverty) the number of poor people would have been 12.0%. And if the European approach were used, whereby poverty is determined by the number of citizens with an income below the median, then the figure in Russia would rise to 36.5%, or 53 million people, with more than half of the residents of every fourth region in the country considered poor and more than two thirds in seven regions.‘Do something nasty – make the bosses happy’
This is how one interviewed expert commented on the actions of Rosstat. However, the objections do not end with Rosstat; the Central Bank and the Ministry of Finance have also surprised with their inflation data, and the Ministry of Economic Development with its GDP forecasts. The data on Russia’s gold and foreign exchange reserves has become a closely guarded secret, and this in particular prevents experts from understanding what is behind the current weakening of the ruble – a banal shortage of convertible currencies or less global and shorter-term reasons.Allowing
companies to withhold full
financial statements not only hurts Russian investors, who are left guessing about the real state of the companies whose shares they buy, but also raises serious doubts about whether the Russian authorities have a real understanding of the state of the national economy.
In the minds of the population and the authorities, a picture is being crafted of an economy “rising from its knees,” growing despite all the machinations of the West, notes economist Sergei Petrov (name changed). “The very ethics of distorting statistics is very philosophically similar to… the Soviet era: back then there was a whole hierarchy of who could distort what and by how much” he notes.
A part of the distortions is rational: this concerns statistics on real disposable incomes and in turn the level of poverty. “It affects the level of federal budget spending on social support,” explains Petrov. Of course, from the standpoint of tightening the budget, which in the first half of the year saw a massive deficit
, this looks rational, but it is hardly rational from the standpoint of preserving and growing human capital.
Still, for experts analyzing the Russian economy, omissions are even worse than distortions. “In the last year and a half, the main problem is not the worsening quality of statistics, but the inaccessibility of a significant part of the data. For example, in terms of foreign trade and the balance of payments, the Central Bank does not report indicators at all or publishes only a small part of them. There are problems with the data on the budget, with customs statistics, etc.,” the well-known economist explained on condition of anonymity.Who is lying the most?