Friday, March 7, 2008

Window on Eurasia: Growing Number of Russian Billionaires a ‘Bad Sign,’ Scholar-Priest Says

Paul Goble

Baku, March 7 – The rise in the number of Russian billionaires from 53 in 2007 to 87 now is being celebrated in the Russian media and by many Western commentators as an indication of that country’s recent economic success, but one Russian economist-priest argues that it is “a bad sign,” not a good one.
In an interview with “Russkaya Liniya,” Father Aleksandr Minyaylo, an economist who serves as rector of the Urals Business Institute, argues that it is the result of the immoral privatization of natural resources in Russia and highlights the increasing divide between rich and poor there (
Consequently, he says, the growth in the number of billionaires in the country is “a bad sign.” Indeed, “there is nothing good about it.” Unfortunately, Minyaylo continued, there is no indication that the Russian government either understands this situation or is prepared to do anything about it.
“The model of neo-liberal economics, from which neither Putin nor Medvedev has turned away from a priori increases the gap between the incomes of the very poorest and the very richest Russians.” The increasing number of billionaires is thus “the result of the functioning of this model.”
And consequently, “it is ridiculous that certain Russians have become members of the so-called ‘golden billion’ when 80 percent of the population of Russia is suffering in poverty. Besides that,” the economist says, “a new burst of inflation is expected in July,” a development that “probably will lead to the growth of prices for food.”
According to Minyaylo, Russia must “move away from the neo-liberal model of economics and go over to the Russian model of self-sufficient economic development,” and it must promote “a social state in which the natural resources will belong to the state and the economy will develop on the basis of innovations.”
If it does, the rector-priest says, then the country will see a rise in the happiness of the population as a whole, a vastly more important achievement than are increases in the number of the richest and the even more dramatic growth of the number of Russians living in poverty.

No comments: