Russia and its “Wealth”
According to the Wealth-X website, Russia has one-quarter the ultra high net worth (UHNW) citizens that Brazil has and close to one-tenth the number held by India and China. But Russia goes toe-to-toe with the other BRIC nations when it comes to billionaires, and those billionaires control a shocking 85% of all the wealth held by Russia’s ultra-rich. In Brazil and India (and for that matter the United States), billionaires do not even control a third of the ultra-rich asset base. Russia’s billionaires control a third of Russia’s GDP, whereas in the USA billionaires control just a tenth.
What this data shows beyond any question is that Russia is a disastrous failure when it comes to spreading the wealth. Russia is an oligarchy even within its oligarchy, as billionaires greedily refuse to allow millionaires to have a fair share of the investment pot. And Russia’s ultra-rich control an unspeakably vast segment of Russia’s total wealth, meaning that only a very narrow group of decision-makers controls the lion’s share of all important financial decisions. With such limited information and viewpoints, it’s inevitable that Russian innovation and entrepreneurship will suffer.
The only area where Russia is even remotely competitive with its BRIC counterparts is in generating billionaires. But those billionaires don’t hold nearly as much wealth as a group as their counterparts in the other BRIC countries, and outside the group of billionaires Russian wealth disappears like vapor. Russia is totally incapable of getting wealth into the hands of ordinary citizens, and that means it can’t inspire them to action, can’t innovate, can’t grow and develop — and as such it is getting left in the dust by the other nations of the BRIC group, to say nothing of the nations of Western Europe and the United States.
This is emblematic of Russia’s culture of corruption. Russia’s billionaires don’t care any more for their country than does the Kremlin itself. All they want to do is hoard wealth for their own personal pleasure and glorification, and if the country suffers that is just too bad.
Putin openly promised when he came to power that he would rid the country of these corrupt oligarchs. He has not done it. He has only pruned the oligarch tree of any branches that did not favor him, while actually encouraging those that did so to grow ever larger.