Irkutsk
Ulan-Ude

Blagoveshchensk
Chita
Yakutsk

Birobidzhan
Vladivostok
Khabarovsk

Magadan
Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk

Anadyr
Petropavlovsk-
Kamchatsky
Moscow

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Inertia of a slow fall

Professor of the Moscow State University Andrei Akhremenko - about why the quality of life does not fall so fast, but is much more difficult to grow than the ruble or GDP

Inertia of a slow fall

Laboratory of Mathematical Methods of Political Analysis and Forecasting of the Faculty of Political Science of the Moscow State University. M.V. Lomonosov specially commissioned EastRussia prepared a study of the quality of life of Russian regions in 2006-2013, with a special focus on the subjects of the Russian Far East.

Download the full report "Level and dynamics of quality of life in the regions of Russia 2006 - 2013".

The resulting rating is an integral (generalized) index, which includes five main blocks: personal security, housing conditions of the population, social sphere, citizens' health, ecology. It is these factors that ultimately determine "to whom to live well in Russia," rather than bare GDP figures, inflation indicators, the ruble exchange rate or the amount of gold reserves.

About how the rating of life quality of Russian regions is compiled, head of the laboratory, head of the research team, doctor of political sciences, professor of Moscow State University Andrei Akhremenko In detail told the portal EastRussia.ru on the example of the previous report. The new study covering the period from 2006 to 2013 showed that the overall vector of development of the regions of the Russian Federation remained unchanged: roughly the same key trends, leaders and outsiders were identified (the Jewish Autonomous Region and the Chukotka Autonomous Region are chronically present). The quality of life of citizens (not to be confused with the standard of living is a different concept, much less “voluminous”) has been growing more and more slowly in recent years, and this trend has also been maintained for a long time already. In many ways, scientists believe, such a decline is explained by a slowdown in social investment, as well as by the fact that the reserves of inertial growth after the “hole” of 90's have been practically exhausted.

Nevertheless, in 2013, there were some improvements in the quality of life of citizens in a number of subjects of the Russian Federation. The development has become more sustainable, the number of regions has decreased by a third, where it is impossible to build a qualitative model due to the constant “swing” of statistical data. It has become more of the subjects of the Federation, which could be rated "4" (steady slowing growth). At the same time, there were fewer “honors” (accelerated growth) and “troechniki” (growth slowdown in the last 2 of the year). Of Far Eastern regions The Amur region significantly improved its performance (primarily due to the development of housing and public utilities), which, with 2010, could not leave the list of outsiders. True, Chukotka and the Jewish Autonomous Region were seriously “digging in” for a long time: the first showed extreme instability of indicators that did not allow building any reliable development models, and the second experienced a protracted decline, which had no end-to-edge.

State statistics is a rather sluggish thing, so scientists are doomed to forever lag behind their findings from rapidly changing realities. But even on the basis of not the worst data for 2013 a year, researchers concluded that a rapid growth in the quality of life in the regions is still not to be expected, “unless there is a fundamental change in the social policy of the state.” 

The crisis has erased even these weak hopes, and in the context of the devaluation of the ruble, the stagnation of the economy and the sanctions imposed by the West, the situation even less looks rosy. How seriously will economic peripetias affect the quality of life of citizens? The questions are again addressed to the head of the laboratory of mathematical methods of political analysis and forecasting, Professor of Moscow State University Andrei Akhremenko.

- To the fact that the recession is inevitable, we are all psychologically ready - both the townsfolk and the analysts, who also do not care about anything human. The fact that growth in general stopped, it was possible to conclude on the basis of last year. Even though our report lists the data for 2013 year and reflects the "average hospital situation", in which there were completely different realities than now. But even the catastrophic, sharp deterioration in the quality of life of people so far one can not be afraid - unlike the economy, there is a very great "inertia force". Therefore, in 2014-2015 years will be more stable stagnation, and a real, noticeable decline in the quality of life of Russians will begin around 2016 year. Unfortunately, it can not escape from him. Just economic storms in this case have indirect, indirect influence. From the introduction of sanctions, people's health does not automatically deteriorate. But they, for example, will have less money to pay for medical services or season tickets to the gym: it is clear that when the salary is barely enough "for life and food," fitness becomes a luxury. Accordingly, the citizens' health indicator will "be asked for", which will affect the general integral index. In addition, unfavorable economic factors will be beaten primarily by the poorest segments of the population, and one of the components of our index is related to the property inequality of citizens. Just this, in contrast to any "trends to improve" the quality of life, has grown steadily - and now even more so. So the forecast is quite clear: after the economic recession with a "lag" about a year, you can expect a decline in the quality of life. But stopping it will then be more difficult than "pulling back" the economic recession - again due to inertia. The problem is precisely this.

- At his recent press conference, the President of the country spoke about “two years”, during which everything should get better, you just have to endure this difficult period ...

- To be honest, I have not heard anyone other than the president talking about two years. In my opinion, we will have to live in a state of recession for a much longer period of time. Even at the time of 2012, it was clearly visible that economic growth, which began in 1998, interrupted by the global crisis at the end of the 2010s, but naturally resumed in 90, had exhausted itself. It was associated with two factors: first, there was a lot of money in the economy at that time, and it was possible to spend it on improving the quality of life. Secondly, the country was getting out of the "pit" of the XNUMXs. I think we will not go down to this extreme level. But people will have to give up many things that have already become entrenched in behavioral and consumer habits for several successful years. Even when the situation improves, these consumption standards are difficult to return due to the stress people have experienced.

- How did the economic processes common to the whole country affect the regions of the Far East?

- The "averaged" dynamics of the Far Eastern subjects of the Federation almost exactly repeats the all-Russian one, with only one minor, but important difference: the general tendency to fade in growth is more visible in the region, despite some recovery in 2013. On average in Russia, the level of quality of life achieved in 2013, was the highest in all recent years, the overall growth is still preserved. However, in the Far East, the rise in the last year only compensated for the previous recession, a new "historical maximum" could not be ensured. Thus, so far there is no reason to expect the transition of the region to the trajectory of "catch-up development".

The most significant factor that caused the backlog of the Far East from Russia as a whole is the health situation of the population. This applies to both indicators, which in our study constitute the health index: infant "survival" and life expectancy at birth. At the same time, if the dynamics of life expectancy in the Far Eastern Federal District roughly corresponds to the average Russian, the infant mortality rate is deteriorating.

The second factor of this lag is the level of security of citizens. Here, however, the regional dynamics looks encouraging: the lag behind the average level in the country, though slowly, but declining.

As for the indicators characterizing the state of housing and communal services, here we see different "trends". On the improvement of housing, the Far East traditionally outstrips the average for the country indicators (including also because there is less specific weight of rural areas). However, it should be noted that it was in 2013 in the region that the indicators of the provision of housing with a water pipe became worse, while the "average" Russia in this plan went ahead. According to the share of dilapidated housing in the general fund, the region lags behind the country's average figures, but at the same time, after a long stagnation, there is finally a growth. On the availability of housing for the population in 2013, the region equaled the country as a whole - although in previous years it looked somewhat better (due to the relatively low cost of housing). As a result, the general indicator of housing conditions of the population is very close to the all-Russian, with some deterioration in the dynamics in the last observed year.

According to the indicators reflecting the ecological and social situation, the Far East is practically on par with Russia. And, unlike the housing and utilities sector, all the social indicators (poverty level, property inequality, unemployment) in the region are in full compliance with the average Russian indicators. The differences are so insignificant that they can not be taken into account.

- Be that as it may, over the past year, the regions of the Far East showed a small, but an increase in the quality of life. Will I have to forget about it now?

- In the Far East, as in past years, two groups of regions are clearly distinguished: outsiders and leaders. If something is stable, then it is this division.

A relatively successful cluster includes the Sakhalin and Magadan regions, the Kamchatka, Khabarovsk and Primorsky regions. The word "comparative" sounds because in this group only one federal subject in 2013 managed to rise above the average for Russia's quality of life - the Sakhalin Region (by the way, in 2012 there were two such regions). A difficult situation with the quality of life can be called in the regions of the "lower" cluster, which includes the Amur Region, the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia), the Chukotka Autonomous District and the Jewish Autonomous Region.

From the point of view of the dynamics in the "successful" group, the leaders are Sakhalin and Magadan oblasts, which demonstrate growth rates above the national average. Some concern, on the contrary, is the development of Primorye, where in 2013 for the first time there was a decline in the quality of life.

In the group of outsiders, the most promising trajectory of the Amur region, where in 2013, there was the most significant increase in the quality of life indicator throughout the region. But the Jewish Autonomous Region demonstrated the strongest decline.

We also compare the average levels of quality of life by groups. In the "lower cluster," the average quality of life was about 0.6 in 2013, compared to 0.8 in the "upper" group. Thus, the difference in the level of quality of life of the territories of one region is about 25% - this is a lot. Moreover, if we compare the average of the groups in dynamics, it is clear that the distance between leaders and outsiders will not decrease - rather the opposite. There is no indication that the lagging group will start to catch up with the "advanced" group.

Within the same group, various shifts are possible. So, decent enough indicators at Sakhalin - probably, owing to "export" character of economy of this region and money rotating there. A good general trend for Kamchatka is that for me, frankly, it is surprising, we have not yet found an exhaustive explanation for this phenomenon. Perhaps, at last, some of the remarkable targeted programs developed for the Far East gave effect, although it is difficult to say how the money allocated for the development of this "nation-wide priority" actually works. Judging by the results of our research, such investments are given only in selected places and not always.

- "Separate places" since January 2015 were defined quite specifically: they should be the territories of advanced development (TORs). Something similar in its time allowed China to make a huge leap forward both in the economy and in the qualitative changes in people's lives. And at us such it is possible?

- I have a feeling that the Chinese experience is not exactly for us. In addition, and there is not everything running smoothly, this country impresses with its successes, but it also has a lot of internal problems. It seems to me that if something else can be squeezed out of the Chinese model, it will happen in the coming years. And what they will do next is unclear. In addition, our and Chinese growth factors are fundamentally different. We do not have, as in the PRC, a huge population density (and in the mass of its very poor), which would create a cheap and extensive labor market. There are also many other political, economic, institutional features that were available to neighbors from the Middle Kingdom. In many respects (infrastructure, income, demographic characteristics, etc.), even if we compare not with China, but with the "mainland" part of the country, the Far East is in a worse situation than the rest of Russia, and this gap can not be quickly overcome. We, apparently, need some kind of special model. Perhaps, it will even come up. But with all the love for the Far East and the greatest degree of optimism, it is impossible to imagine how this region suddenly begins to "accelerate" against all other all-Russian processes. All the same, if we do not solve the systemic problems at the country level, no transplantation of even the most advanced experience into separate remote regions will do anything special in the end. I will not even utter banalities about the quality of our managerial and other institutions. But if we are looking for "good scenarios" for the development of the Far East, they should in any case be connected with a significant restructuring of the political and economic situation as a whole.

Download the full report "Level and dynamics of quality of life in the regions of Russia 2006 - 2013".

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