27 March 2007

Government and big business versus everyone else: Putin's Russia

A couple of quotes from Michael Specter’s chilling article in the New Yorker on Putin’s Russia:

Propaganda has become more sophisticated and possibly more effective than it was during the Soviet years, when television was a tool used to sustain an ideology. The goal today is simpler: to support the Kremlin and its corporate interests.

Putin is proud of Russia's economic achievements…. "When I became President, our foreign-currency and gold reserves stood at twelve billion dollars, and now they have increased by eighty billion over the first half of this year alone, and currently come to a total of around two hundred and seventy billion," he said. "We have paid off our debts in full. …" He added, "But none of this would mean anything if it did not bring change to people's lives," noting that incomes and pensions have risen nearly ten per cent each year since he became President. Nevertheless, the country is literally dying. When Boris Yeltsin took office, the Russian population stood at nearly a hundred and fifty million. By 2050, most official projections suggest, the number may fall below a hundred million. In describing the new Russia, neither Putin nor his loyalists mention the country's rapidly expanding AIDS epidemic, its endemic alcoholism, or the vast differences in incomes among its citizens. Kremlin, Inc, ‘New Yorker’, 29 January (my emphases)
These quotes, and the entire article, show clearly that in Russia, as in other countries:

  • Government and corporations have their own agenda, which often conflicts with that of ordinary citizens; and
  • A high or rising Gross Domestic Product – which I believe is the de facto target of most governments – says very little about the wellbeing of a society.

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