Russia’s official State Statistics Committee (Goskomstat) has been accused of manipulating the country’s GDP figures. Goskomstat reported an increase in GDP for January and February of 0.1 and 0.9 percent, respectively, compared with January and February 1996. Now a team of Moscow economists says these figures are too high. They have discovered that this year’s figures include a larger allowance for the shadow economy than previously, while no corresponding adjustment has been made to the 1996 figures with which they were compared. Andrei Poletaev estimates that if a comparable adjustment were made to the 1996 data, the year-on-year change in January 1997 would be – 6 percent. (Financial Times, March 25)
This evidence of statistical chicanery should not overshadow the more general indications that the officially-recorded fall in GDP since 1989 has been a gross exaggeration. A recent Japanese study recalculates the fall in output between 1989 and 1995 as about a quarter rather than the officially-measured decline of about a half. (Kuboniwa, 1996) Economy Ministry officials last year were already saying that the fall in output had, in reality, probably already stopped. (Segodnya, November 30, 1996) It is likely that the true picture — if only it could be reliably assessed — would show output now either flat or beginning to recover. The suspicion remains that Goskomstat has distorted the official numbers for political reasons.
In the Wake of the Summit, Moscow Looks to Asia and the Gulf.