Statistics and ”statistics”

Statistics and ”statistics”

Russia is a huge country and it has an enormous population. It also has political and economical power. Finland emphasizes bilateral relations with Russia, and other countries appreciate our special expertise concerning Russia. The land of oppositions is quite well known but there is also some contradictory information. For example, it is not an easy task to view Russia from a statistical perspective.

OECD has some interesting information about different countries on their own websites. From some countries we can get more statistical information than others. If we compare the G20 countries’ health spending % of GDP in 1990–2015 we can find one interesting detail. We can get this information about Australia, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, South-Korea and UK for example. But if we try to find Russia’s information we will not find them until after 2000. If we want to check out Russia’s social spending % of GDP in 1990–2016, there is nothing to be found. If we want to explore some statistics about Russia’s social benefits to households we will find some numbers from 2011 to 2014.

Linda J. Cook is a professor of political science and professor of slavic studies. She has written a book named Postcommunist Welfare States Reform Politics in Russia and Eastern Europe. This book gives us more statistical details. We can discover some statistics which give us information on how many Russians lived below the poverty level in 1991–2002. These numbers are from the World Bank and Russian Federal State Statistics Service. There are confusing differences to be found in these statistics. According to Russian Federal State Statistics Service about 25 % and 22 % of Russia’s population lived below the poverty line in 1995 and 1996. World Bank’s estimates are quite different and gave numbers 41 % and 43 %.

The ambiguity and lack of statistical information raises questions. In the first place: why is the statistics data found only on certain years or why do the World Bank and Russian Federal State Statistics Service give different figures. It is clear that incomplete information sets challenges for researchers who are interested about Russia. Comprehensive conclusions are limited if the given information can not be trusted. Is there any chance to find more ambiguous statistical information concerning Russia which differs significantly from westerners’ numbers or estimates?

Let’s take an example: We all know that Russia shows its military power by using images, videos, demonstrations and numbers. It is not a hard task to find the size of Russia’s military budget. It is much easier to find information about Russia’s military spending than the statistical information talked about earlier. Russia has become wealthy thanks to its natural resources. In addition, the standards of living of Russian citizens has increased. However, wealth is not distributed evenly and differences between regions are great. It’s interesting to think about if there are some different measurement methods or some sensitive issues for administration that explain the lack of statistical information about welfare issues. History shows what neglecting citizens’ welfare causes problem to the stability of a state – especially if the state has been putting money into everything else. During the reign of Putin, there have been some protests of pensioners and the young. Is there something under Russia’s surface?

From the economic perspective, the Russian market is significant. If a company is planning to move to the eastern market and wants information about the operating environment, for example in the light of numbers, can it get information that is reliable enough? A well-known fact is that companies appreciate a stable operating environment, so the various uncertainties, unrest and risk of conflicts can reduce willingness to invest in Russia.

The more unpredictable Russia is in its actions and in the light of different statistical information, the more narrower its position will ultimately be.

– Pyry Tiirinen, intern @ Sivukonttori

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