Loading...
A BYH to the dry-rainy poster (“When it rains it pours”). You conflate LOCAL weather with GLOBAL warming. Please get to...

Vladimir Putin's mission impossible in Russia

Russia Putin-3

Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks during a meeting with local officials in Omsk, Russia, Tuesday, Aug. 28, 2018. (Alexei Druzhinin, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)

Loading…

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Vladimir Putin faces an enormous challenge. He wants to deliver prosperity to Russians before 2024, when the constitution says his presidency must end, but the economy is no longer cooperating. For this unhelpful economic outlook, Russia's president has only himself to blame.

After dipping into recession in 2015, Russia remains in a rut. Private investment and productivity are sluggish. Economists don't expect growth to exceed 2 percent a year in the foreseeable future — a far cry from the 5-percent-plus pace of Putin's first two terms.

If things keep going this way, Russians might get fed up by 2024. That's dangerous, because the transfer of power — or a constitutional amendment to let Putin stay — will stir more dissatisfaction, given how little say voters will have in the process. The last time Russians took to the streets, in 2011 and 2012, the economy was doing well.

Putin's answer is to decree that Russia will have an economic miracle. He has ordered the government to boost fertility, longevity, incomes, housing, innovation, digitalization, education and health. It's an impressive collection of goals, yet less than inspiring, because this future is so implausible.

The problem is more political than economic. For a start, Russia's Crimean land grab and election meddling made the country an international pariah and provoked Western sanctions. These might have a limited immediate effect on growth, but they create persistent uncertainty that keeps foreign investment and ideas away.

Meanwhile, Putin's grip on power throttles the domestic economy. His lack of regard for property rights and personal freedoms — he decides who may take assets from whom, who gets prosecuted, and what people are allowed to say —pervades officialdom. As long as people fear that their lives and livelihoods can be confiscated, entrepreneurship will be stifled and many of the best and brightest will leave.

Granted, Russians don't give up easily. In Moscow, the Skolkovo Innovation Center incubates promising startups. Restaurateurs and home-grown food companies cater to every taste and budget. There's even a farm-to-table movement. But all too often businesses fall prey to official shakedowns or attacks from competitors using a corrupt judicial system to pressure or even imprison their targets. For enterprises that survive, there's often little choice but to sell out to firms with ties to the government.

Against this background, even prudent economic policies take on a different character. Consider Russia's plan to raise the pension age — a move essential to the longer-term growth and solvency of any country with an aging population. Russians reasonably ask: Why should we wait longer for our money when the president's friends are getting rich on state contracts?

Putin's advisers know what's needed. An economic program developed by former finance minister Alexei Kudrin — and produced at Putin's behest — stresses that "economic success is impossible" without the rule of law and a "fair and genuinely independent" judicial system. Yet this fundamental element is absent from Putin's own plan. In any case, Russians could be forgiven for wondering how the ruling elite would deal with opponents if it could no longer exploit the courts.

In the end, the dilemma is plain: Putin can have Putinism or a more prosperous Russia, but not both. The odds aren't good that he'll make the right choice.

Bloomberg Opinion

Loading…

Humans of Greenville

@HumansofGville

Local photographer Joe Pellegrino explores Greenville to create a photographic census of its people.

Editorials

June 10, 2019

As the election results became clear in 2016, financial markets rose amid a surge of economic optimism. That surge continued for two years as Donald Trump and Republicans pursued a pro-growth agenda of tax reform, deregulation and encouraging domestic energy production. But with Democrats now…

June 08, 2019

Keith Cox served the residents of Virginia Beach in the public utilities department for 12 years.

Well-liked by co-workers, he spent his final moments on Friday working to protect them from a gunman in the municipal center — sacrificing his life in the process.

The remembrance of Cox,…

APTOPIX Virginia Beach Shooting-6

June 04, 2019

Give Harry Smith credit for being willing to do his homework and change his mind.

Smith, the usually outspoken and politically conservative chairman of the University of North Carolina Board of Governors, emerged from a recent board meeting and told reporters that his thinking about what to do…

Confederate Monuments-5

June 03, 2019

Vice President Mike Pence came to Charlotte this week for a 2020 Republican National Convention kickoff event. The visit was a reminder of the discomfort many feel in this progressive city about the 2020 RNC — an uneasiness so deep that Mayor Vi Lyles said last summer that she wouldn’t…

RNC Charlotte 2020-4

June 01, 2019

A state budget is a spending plan, but the proposal the state Senate’s Republican majority presented Tuesday is better described as an anti-spending plan. It is an unalloyed version of Senate leader Phil Berger’s iron-rule of government: Cut taxes and spend the absolute minimum. If…

State Of The State North Carolina-3

May 28, 2019

Around the turn of the last century, the steel magnate Andrew Carnegie paid to build 1,689 libraries across the United States. Many are still in use, celebrated as monumental works of philanthropy.

They should be seen as monuments to the failure of public policy. The United States could have built…

May 27, 2019

If you’re a member of the LGBTQ community — or perhaps anyone who has lived in North Carolina the past decade — you were probably surprised to learn that Thom Tillis is a “pro-LGBTQ Republican.”

It’s true, according to the American Unity Fund, a conservative gay…

Border Security Tillis-2

May 25, 2019

Want to understand how the tariffs on China work? Don’t take President Donald Trump’s word for it.

Here’s what he’s had to say. We’ll follow with why he’s wrong, who really pays and who really suffers (hint, it’s not China or Trump).

First, from…

China Trade-2

May 21, 2019

Our planet is on life support.

That’s the dire message from a landmark United Nations report that found one million species of plants and animals — out of a total of eight million — are at risk of extinction as the result of human actions.

It’s a message the world dare not…

Trump Giraffes Endangered

May 20, 2019

Kim Strach, the executive director of the state Board of Elections, was doing a good job before she got fired Monday. She’d helped guide the board through the minefield of the 9th Congressional District election fraud scandal. She’d offered strong suggestions to lawmakers about…

Election 2018 North Carolina-6
56 stories in Editorials. Viewing 1 through 10.
«First Page   «Previous Page        
Page 1 of 6
        Next Page»   Last Page»