Daily Archives: December 11, 2006

Russian Hospitals are the Disease, not the Cure

The Houston Chronicle reports:

A fire tore through a Moscow drug treatment hospital early Saturday while patients slept, killing 42 people, fire officials said. About 160 people had been evacuated from the five-story Hospital No. 17 in southern Moscow, said Moscow Fire Department spokesman Yevgeny Bobylyov. But Bobylyov blamed hospital workers for not reacting to the fire sooner and evacuating people more quickly. He also said the fire department was not called until very late. “The hospital personnel worked very badly,” he said. Firefighters put out the blaze within an hour of the first call for help, Bobylyov said. It was not immediately clear what caused the fire, though Russia’s chief fire inspector said he was “90 percent certain” it was arson, the ITAR-Tass news agency reported. The victims died of asphyxiation, Bobylyov said. Ten people were also hospitalized for carbon monoxide poisoning, he said. News agencies reported that two hospital staff members were among the dead. ITAR-Tass said the fire only burned a small part of the building, but the heavy concentrations of smoke killed people as they slept.

As if that was not enough, Sky News reported a second incident:

Nine mental patients have died after a fire swept through a psychiatric hospital in the second major blaze in Russia in two days. Hospital officials tried to put out the fire at the clinic in the town of Taiga in the Kemerovo region in central Siberia. Emergency services were not called until 90 minutes after the fire broke out, a government spokesman said. Fifteen patients were taken to hospital, said Valery Korchagin, a spokesman for the Emergency Situations Ministry. On Saturday, 45 women were killed in a fire at a Moscow drug treatment centre killed 45. The victims could not escape because gates and doors were locked and windows were barred. The accidents underlined widespread neglect for fire safety rules in Russia, which records about 18,000 fire deaths a year – roughly 10 times the rate in the US.

So that’s 54 fatalities in Russian hospitals in one weekend where the hospitals were the cause of the harm, not the protector. And how many similar incidents are we unaware of? And this is while Russia is enjoying a massive oil revenue windfall unprecedented in its history. Can you imagine what horrors we’d be seeing if it weren’t? As the next post shows, Russia is fundamentally failing to deliver the benefits of that windall to its people.

The BBC reports that Russia records about 18,000 fire deaths a year, AP reports – 10 times more than in the US. Since the U.S. has twice as many people as Russia, as Siberian Light notes, this means your chances of being burned alive are twenty times greater in Russia than in the U.S. Is that tour of the Golden Ring you were planning still looking so good? No? Didn’t think so.

Here we see the four brutal facts of Russian life, working together in symbiosis to destroy the country:

1. Total indifference to the value of human life
2. Utter bureacratic incompetence and corruption
3. Leeching of the nation’s resources by a clan of oligarchs in the Kremlin
4. Complete political irresponsibility by a cowardly, lazy population

These are consistent features of Russian history right the way back through the ages. Russians were far more annoyed at the affront to Slavic power by the Beslan and Dubrovka attacks than by the loss of life, to which the regime contributed in equal measure with the terrorists, and the people have not supported inquiries to hold anyone accuntable. The situation is even worse with the 1999 apartment bombings, where the Kremlin is killing off the investigating committee one by one and the public not only fails to defend them but allows the Kremlin to paint the effort as an anti-Russian conspiracy. Today’s Russian adults are condeming their children to decades more Soviet rule, and that’s an outrage (they’ve stood idly by while non-state television has been obliterated and Putin has taken control over both national political parties and local elections). They’ll do nothing to correct the problems revealed by these events, they’ll send their children to be treated in these hospitals and their children will suffer just as their parents did.

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Russia’s Rich Steal from the Poor While it Crucifies Women


This arresting graphic from the Russia page of the United Nations Development Program’s 2006 Human Development Report shows that although there is a vast difference between the per capita GDPs of Sri Lanka and Russia, there is only a tiny difference between their scores on the UNDP study for human development (“HDI”). Venezuela, with only $6,000 in per capita GDP, has an average life expectency of 73 while Russians, with $9,000 in per capita GDP, can only expect to live 65 years on average. These stark facts lay bare Russia’s abject failure to deliver on the basic promises of civilization. Basically, the chart above is a strong argument for the return of Communism to Russia; it’s what Russia looked like at the time of the Bolshevik revolution. Russia now has the worst of all possible worlds; the crushing authortarianism of the Soviet period and the ghastly economic inequality of the Tsarist era, while continuing the gross economic inefficiency of both eras. Russia’s 2006 score on the UNDP study of 0.797 is not radically different than in was in 1990, when it reached 0.818 or in 1995 when it was 0.771. This gives the lie to the Russophile propandist claim that Russia under Putin is doing dramatically better than Russia under the “disatrous” kleptocracy of the Yeltsin era. As previously reported on La Russophobe, Russia’s score on the UNDP study in 2006 places it #65 on the list of 173 countries survyed, outside the group of “most developed” nations and three places lower than its rank on last year’s study. Russia is getting worse under Putin, not better (unless of course you are one of Putin’s favored oligarchs).

To be sure, with an average wage of $300 per month, all but a few Russians live in abject poverty — but UNDP’s data clearly shows that mysogenistic Russia forces women The UNDP gender empowerment measure (GEM) reveals whether women take an active part in economic and political life. It tracks the share of seats in parliament held by women; of female legislators, senior officials and managers; and of female professional and technical workers- and the gender disparity in earned income, reflecting economic independence. Differing from the GDI, the GEM exposes inequality in opportunities in selected areas. Russia ranks 62nd out of 75 countries in the GEM, with a value of 0.482.

La Russophobe has already reported that domestic violence is out of control in Russia, with two dozen Russian women being murdered by their husbands every single day in Russia. But now it turns out that Russian women have more to fear from their government than from their husbands, as the country imposes a condition of fundamental economic servitude upon them. Can it be surprising, then, that Russia does not have a birthrate sufficient to even maintain, much less enlarge, it’s population? What rational woman would want to bear children under these conditions? Above all, what rational woman would want to bring a daughter into such a world? On the other hand, the average lifespan of a Russian woman is actually longer than that of man, so she couldn’t be too sanguine about having a boy either.

Incidentally, America’s score on this key index far exceeds that of all the five major nations of Europe and places it #8 in the world. According to Time magazine, last year the average American taxpayer had an income of $53,974 (15 times the average Russian annual wage of $3,600). Take that, America haters!

Russia’s Rich Steal from the Poor While it Crucifies Women


This arresting graphic from the Russia page of the United Nations Development Program’s 2006 Human Development Report shows that although there is a vast difference between the per capita GDPs of Sri Lanka and Russia, there is only a tiny difference between their scores on the UNDP study for human development (“HDI”). Venezuela, with only $6,000 in per capita GDP, has an average life expectency of 73 while Russians, with $9,000 in per capita GDP, can only expect to live 65 years on average. These stark facts lay bare Russia’s abject failure to deliver on the basic promises of civilization. Basically, the chart above is a strong argument for the return of Communism to Russia; it’s what Russia looked like at the time of the Bolshevik revolution. Russia now has the worst of all possible worlds; the crushing authortarianism of the Soviet period and the ghastly economic inequality of the Tsarist era, while continuing the gross economic inefficiency of both eras. Russia’s 2006 score on the UNDP study of 0.797 is not radically different than in was in 1990, when it reached 0.818 or in 1995 when it was 0.771. This gives the lie to the Russophile propandist claim that Russia under Putin is doing dramatically better than Russia under the “disatrous” kleptocracy of the Yeltsin era. As previously reported on La Russophobe, Russia’s score on the UNDP study in 2006 places it #65 on the list of 173 countries survyed, outside the group of “most developed” nations and three places lower than its rank on last year’s study. Russia is getting worse under Putin, not better (unless of course you are one of Putin’s favored oligarchs).

To be sure, with an average wage of $300 per month, all but a few Russians live in abject poverty — but UNDP’s data clearly shows that mysogenistic Russia forces women The UNDP gender empowerment measure (GEM) reveals whether women take an active part in economic and political life. It tracks the share of seats in parliament held by women; of female legislators, senior officials and managers; and of female professional and technical workers- and the gender disparity in earned income, reflecting economic independence. Differing from the GDI, the GEM exposes inequality in opportunities in selected areas. Russia ranks 62nd out of 75 countries in the GEM, with a value of 0.482.

La Russophobe has already reported that domestic violence is out of control in Russia, with two dozen Russian women being murdered by their husbands every single day in Russia. But now it turns out that Russian women have more to fear from their government than from their husbands, as the country imposes a condition of fundamental economic servitude upon them. Can it be surprising, then, that Russia does not have a birthrate sufficient to even maintain, much less enlarge, it’s population? What rational woman would want to bear children under these conditions? Above all, what rational woman would want to bring a daughter into such a world? On the other hand, the average lifespan of a Russian woman is actually longer than that of man, so she couldn’t be too sanguine about having a boy either.

Incidentally, America’s score on this key index far exceeds that of all the five major nations of Europe and places it #8 in the world. According to Time magazine, last year the average American taxpayer had an income of $53,974 (15 times the average Russian annual wage of $3,600). Take that, America haters!

Russia’s Rich Steal from the Poor While it Crucifies Women


This arresting graphic from the Russia page of the United Nations Development Program’s 2006 Human Development Report shows that although there is a vast difference between the per capita GDPs of Sri Lanka and Russia, there is only a tiny difference between their scores on the UNDP study for human development (“HDI”). Venezuela, with only $6,000 in per capita GDP, has an average life expectency of 73 while Russians, with $9,000 in per capita GDP, can only expect to live 65 years on average. These stark facts lay bare Russia’s abject failure to deliver on the basic promises of civilization. Basically, the chart above is a strong argument for the return of Communism to Russia; it’s what Russia looked like at the time of the Bolshevik revolution. Russia now has the worst of all possible worlds; the crushing authortarianism of the Soviet period and the ghastly economic inequality of the Tsarist era, while continuing the gross economic inefficiency of both eras. Russia’s 2006 score on the UNDP study of 0.797 is not radically different than in was in 1990, when it reached 0.818 or in 1995 when it was 0.771. This gives the lie to the Russophile propandist claim that Russia under Putin is doing dramatically better than Russia under the “disatrous” kleptocracy of the Yeltsin era. As previously reported on La Russophobe, Russia’s score on the UNDP study in 2006 places it #65 on the list of 173 countries survyed, outside the group of “most developed” nations and three places lower than its rank on last year’s study. Russia is getting worse under Putin, not better (unless of course you are one of Putin’s favored oligarchs).

To be sure, with an average wage of $300 per month, all but a few Russians live in abject poverty — but UNDP’s data clearly shows that mysogenistic Russia forces women The UNDP gender empowerment measure (GEM) reveals whether women take an active part in economic and political life. It tracks the share of seats in parliament held by women; of female legislators, senior officials and managers; and of female professional and technical workers- and the gender disparity in earned income, reflecting economic independence. Differing from the GDI, the GEM exposes inequality in opportunities in selected areas. Russia ranks 62nd out of 75 countries in the GEM, with a value of 0.482.

La Russophobe has already reported that domestic violence is out of control in Russia, with two dozen Russian women being murdered by their husbands every single day in Russia. But now it turns out that Russian women have more to fear from their government than from their husbands, as the country imposes a condition of fundamental economic servitude upon them. Can it be surprising, then, that Russia does not have a birthrate sufficient to even maintain, much less enlarge, it’s population? What rational woman would want to bear children under these conditions? Above all, what rational woman would want to bring a daughter into such a world? On the other hand, the average lifespan of a Russian woman is actually longer than that of man, so she couldn’t be too sanguine about having a boy either.

Incidentally, America’s score on this key index far exceeds that of all the five major nations of Europe and places it #8 in the world. According to Time magazine, last year the average American taxpayer had an income of $53,974 (15 times the average Russian annual wage of $3,600). Take that, America haters!

Russia’s Rich Steal from the Poor While it Crucifies Women


This arresting graphic from the Russia page of the United Nations Development Program’s 2006 Human Development Report shows that although there is a vast difference between the per capita GDPs of Sri Lanka and Russia, there is only a tiny difference between their scores on the UNDP study for human development (“HDI”). Venezuela, with only $6,000 in per capita GDP, has an average life expectency of 73 while Russians, with $9,000 in per capita GDP, can only expect to live 65 years on average. These stark facts lay bare Russia’s abject failure to deliver on the basic promises of civilization. Basically, the chart above is a strong argument for the return of Communism to Russia; it’s what Russia looked like at the time of the Bolshevik revolution. Russia now has the worst of all possible worlds; the crushing authortarianism of the Soviet period and the ghastly economic inequality of the Tsarist era, while continuing the gross economic inefficiency of both eras. Russia’s 2006 score on the UNDP study of 0.797 is not radically different than in was in 1990, when it reached 0.818 or in 1995 when it was 0.771. This gives the lie to the Russophile propandist claim that Russia under Putin is doing dramatically better than Russia under the “disatrous” kleptocracy of the Yeltsin era. As previously reported on La Russophobe, Russia’s score on the UNDP study in 2006 places it #65 on the list of 173 countries survyed, outside the group of “most developed” nations and three places lower than its rank on last year’s study. Russia is getting worse under Putin, not better (unless of course you are one of Putin’s favored oligarchs).

To be sure, with an average wage of $300 per month, all but a few Russians live in abject poverty — but UNDP’s data clearly shows that mysogenistic Russia forces women The UNDP gender empowerment measure (GEM) reveals whether women take an active part in economic and political life. It tracks the share of seats in parliament held by women; of female legislators, senior officials and managers; and of female professional and technical workers- and the gender disparity in earned income, reflecting economic independence. Differing from the GDI, the GEM exposes inequality in opportunities in selected areas. Russia ranks 62nd out of 75 countries in the GEM, with a value of 0.482.

La Russophobe has already reported that domestic violence is out of control in Russia, with two dozen Russian women being murdered by their husbands every single day in Russia. But now it turns out that Russian women have more to fear from their government than from their husbands, as the country imposes a condition of fundamental economic servitude upon them. Can it be surprising, then, that Russia does not have a birthrate sufficient to even maintain, much less enlarge, it’s population? What rational woman would want to bear children under these conditions? Above all, what rational woman would want to bring a daughter into such a world? On the other hand, the average lifespan of a Russian woman is actually longer than that of man, so she couldn’t be too sanguine about having a boy either.

Incidentally, America’s score on this key index far exceeds that of all the five major nations of Europe and places it #8 in the world. According to Time magazine, last year the average American taxpayer had an income of $53,974 (15 times the average Russian annual wage of $3,600). Take that, America haters!

Russia’s Rich Steal from the Poor While it Crucifies Women


This arresting graphic from the Russia page of the United Nations Development Program’s 2006 Human Development Report shows that although there is a vast difference between the per capita GDPs of Sri Lanka and Russia, there is only a tiny difference between their scores on the UNDP study for human development (“HDI”). Venezuela, with only $6,000 in per capita GDP, has an average life expectency of 73 while Russians, with $9,000 in per capita GDP, can only expect to live 65 years on average. These stark facts lay bare Russia’s abject failure to deliver on the basic promises of civilization. Basically, the chart above is a strong argument for the return of Communism to Russia; it’s what Russia looked like at the time of the Bolshevik revolution. Russia now has the worst of all possible worlds; the crushing authortarianism of the Soviet period and the ghastly economic inequality of the Tsarist era, while continuing the gross economic inefficiency of both eras. Russia’s 2006 score on the UNDP study of 0.797 is not radically different than in was in 1990, when it reached 0.818 or in 1995 when it was 0.771. This gives the lie to the Russophile propandist claim that Russia under Putin is doing dramatically better than Russia under the “disatrous” kleptocracy of the Yeltsin era. As previously reported on La Russophobe, Russia’s score on the UNDP study in 2006 places it #65 on the list of 173 countries survyed, outside the group of “most developed” nations and three places lower than its rank on last year’s study. Russia is getting worse under Putin, not better (unless of course you are one of Putin’s favored oligarchs).

To be sure, with an average wage of $300 per month, all but a few Russians live in abject poverty — but UNDP’s data clearly shows that mysogenistic Russia forces women The UNDP gender empowerment measure (GEM) reveals whether women take an active part in economic and political life. It tracks the share of seats in parliament held by women; of female legislators, senior officials and managers; and of female professional and technical workers- and the gender disparity in earned income, reflecting economic independence. Differing from the GDI, the GEM exposes inequality in opportunities in selected areas. Russia ranks 62nd out of 75 countries in the GEM, with a value of 0.482.

La Russophobe has already reported that domestic violence is out of control in Russia, with two dozen Russian women being murdered by their husbands every single day in Russia. But now it turns out that Russian women have more to fear from their government than from their husbands, as the country imposes a condition of fundamental economic servitude upon them. Can it be surprising, then, that Russia does not have a birthrate sufficient to even maintain, much less enlarge, it’s population? What rational woman would want to bear children under these conditions? Above all, what rational woman would want to bring a daughter into such a world? On the other hand, the average lifespan of a Russian woman is actually longer than that of man, so she couldn’t be too sanguine about having a boy either.

Incidentally, America’s score on this key index far exceeds that of all the five major nations of Europe and places it #8 in the world. According to Time magazine, last year the average American taxpayer had an income of $53,974 (15 times the average Russian annual wage of $3,600). Take that, America haters!

Russia: How long can the "fun" last?

Business Week’s Moscow Bureau Chief explains that although Russia’s “middle class” has grown, this means absolutely nothing when the average salary is $11 a day and the government is fundmentally crazed with power and corrupt. Ask not for whom the bell tolls, Russia, it tolls for thee.

In many countries, a leader with the scandal-tarred record of Russian President Vladimir Putin would be long gone. There was his ham-fisted handling of hostage crises in Moscow and the southern town of Beslan, his meddling in elections in Ukraine, and his persecution of former Yukos oil chief Mikhail Khodorkovsky. Now add to those misadventures the deathbed allegation by former KGB spy Alexander Litvinenko that Putin ordered his poisoning.

Yet in Russia, Putin remains a hero. His approval rating stands just shy of 80%, in large part because the economy has flowered during his term in a way that would have seemed unimaginable during the crisis-ridden 1990s. Growth in gross domestic product has averaged 7% per year during that period, while real incomes have climbed at more than 8% annually. Putin “is quite tough both inside and out of Russia, which is needed,” says finance student Kim Volodzanin, busy shopping at an outlet of British department store Marks & Spencer in Moscow.

SOARING STOCKS
Among foreign investors, too, Russia has never been more popular, as the stock market is up tenfold under Putin. And some $17 billion in foreign direct investment has come in this year, roughly 75% of it in sectors other than oil and gas—an encouraging sign of economic diversification. The likes of Dutch brewer Heineken and Swedish retailer ikea are growing fast. More than a dozen carmakers, including Ford F, General MotorsGM, and Toyota TM, are setting up or expanding operations in Russia. And Citibank (C) this year nearly doubled its branches in the country, to 47, and says its Russian business is growing at 70% annually.

What these investments have in common is that they target Russia’s middle class. This group has grown from just 8 million in 2000 to 55 million today and now accounts for some 37% of the population, estimates Expert, a market research firm in Moscow. That’s giving a lift to the mood in the country. The share of Russians who think life is “not bad” has risen to 23% from just 7% in 1999, while those who find living conditions “unacceptable” has dropped to 29% from 53%, according to a recent poll.

These hopeful folks are flocking to places such as the new European Trade & Entertainment Center near Moscow’s Kiev Railway Station. For years, the site lay empty, a refuge for drunks and stray dogs, but today it’s a five-story mall with some 160 shops selling imported clothes, jewelry, and cosmetics. Diners fill the cafés, and a multiplex is showing Hollywood blockbusters such as Casino Royale. “Life is definitely improving,” says Alexander Kereev, a young musician out shopping for clothes. “People are earning more and spending more.”

Western retailers like the sound of that. Zara, Nike, the Body Shop, and others are opening in the new mall. “We expect that our sales [in Moscow] will almost immediately reach the level of London or New York,” says Ian Zilberkweit, who is setting up the first Moscow outlet for Le Pain Quotidien, an upmarket café and bakery chain based in Belgium.

Not everyone has shared in the prosperity. Far from it. The average Russian earns $330 a month, just 10% of the U.S. average. Only a third of households own a car, and many—particularly the elderly—have been left behind. “Of course, life used to be better,” says 68-year-old Yury Stepanov, who scrapes by on his state pension of $135 per month. And though new malls, offices, and apartment blocks are sprouting in second-tier cities such as St. Petersburg and Novosibirsk, there’s still a gulf between the capital and the rest of the country. “The farther outside of Moscow you go, [the more the] unhappy number increases,” Garry Kasparov, the chess grandmaster and a frequent critic of the Kremlin, said in an interview with Maria Bartiromo.

BUILDING UP RESERVES
Some also wonder whether the expansion can be sustained. There’s little doubt that a major driver of the newfound bounty is oil and other natural resources. Without the runup in commodity prices, economic growth would have been two to three percentage points lower during the last three years, estimates the Organization for Economic Cooperation & Development. Developing countries, meanwhile, don’t have a very good track record of using windfall profits from commodity booms to lay the foundations for sustainable growth.

To his credit, Putin has used much of the cash to build up financial reserves. Russia has created a $90 billion fund—equivalent to 9% of gdp—to protect against a drop in oil prices. Fiscal policy remains tight, with the Kremlin expecting a budget surplus equal to 7% of GDP this year. And Russia is well ahead of most other resource-rich countries in its economic development, with a long tradition of education, science, and industry. Now, its tech companies are starting to give India’s outsourcing sector a run for the money. Software exports will top $1.5 billion this year, vs. just $128 million in 2001. “We really can compete on a global scale,” says Dmitry A. Loschinin, chief executive of Russia’s largest software developer, Luxoft.

Economists warn, however, that high oil prices have bred complacency. The OECD cautions that economic reforms have largely stagnated. Worse, corruption and bureaucratic interference continue to impede business: Russia ranks alongside Gambia and the Philippines near the bottom of think tank Transparency International’s annual list of corrupt countries. “It’s the general scourge of Russia,” says Anatoly Berestovoi, deputy director of a Moscow construction company. “You have to speed things up by interesting this or that official personally.”

Most troubling is government’s growing role. The Kremlin has taken control of some two dozen Russian companies since 2004, including oil assets from Sibneft and Yukos, as well as banks, newspapers, and more. Despite his sporadic support for pro-market reforms, Putin has backed national champions such as energy concerns Gazprom and Rosneft. The private sector’s share of output fell from 70% to 65% last year, while state-controlled companies now represent 38% of stock market capitalization, up from 22% a year ago. “The tendency that really worries us,” says William Tompson, the oecd’s senior Russia economist, “is the big increase in state property.”

But for now, few middle-class Russians seem to share the oecd’s concerns about the economy, or the international community’s worries about their president’s dark reputation.