Environment, Economics and Politics in Russia
It is impossible to separate the solution of ecological problems from economical capabilities and political aspirations.
As a result of the conditions of the market economy, including the sharp competition therein, environmental demands have become a profitable platform for some businesses. Consequently, corporations with multimillion dollar capitals have become distinguished among the battlefront of those who are concerning themselves with those issues that are not immediately political, such as ecological security, global warming of the climate and preservation of biological diversity.
Is Russia ready to represent its interests with dignity and reason to such an eager-to-act panel?
The experiences of the past decade testify against Russia’s readiness. The economical crisis that enveloped Russia had been caused by clumsy activities and shortsighted planning. The restructuring of Russia’s economy has been prolonged for many years. According to certain estimates, the country will be able to reach the production level of 1990 under the average increase of production of 4% not earlier than 2010. The conditions of the economic crisis have become chronic, causing doubt in terms of the nature of the crisis. Any such unchanging condition inadvertently corresponds to the conditions of the environment and--to put it bluntly--is a profitable front for the most active forces.
The calamitous state of the majority of people and the luxurious lifestyles of the minority are mutually interconnected. If the economic platform of the country were production--and not the wholesale of inherited natural resources and property--a capacious internal market would be necessary in order to sustain this platform.
This, in turn, would lead to better absorption of the “fruits of labor” and the population’s increased spending capability. In this scheme pauperization of the population is not profitable first and foremost for businessmen. Thus there might be rational and reasonable restrictions in the distribution of profit among different social strata.
A contrary situation can be seen in a country where the main well-being of the people is based primarily on their access to resources and the export of these resources. In this variation, the spending capabilities of the population does not play such an important role. Therefore, the more the profits are concentrated in the hands of the minority, the less the profit has to be distributed among the population. Twenty percent of the population of Russia receives one half of officially accounted for profits. Another thirty percent receives one-third of the profits. The other half of the population has to remain content with one-fifth of the profits. A change in the average wages between the upper 10% of the population and the lower 10% was made 25 times throughout the entirety of the country in 1997.
Those who have real access to the “feeding bin” are surrounded by a thick layer of specialization of various services. Altogether, these people comprise that particular 50% of the population of Russia that is receiving 80% of the entirety of profits.
In addition to the reduction in the physical volume of production during the years of perestroika by two times, the lowering of half of the population’s quality of life level by three or more times, meat consumption was reduced 1.5 times (domestic production was reduced by two times, although purchase of imported meat increased two times). Although production of many agricultural articles has also reduced, Russia nevertheless remains among the number of wealthy nations according to its consumption of meat, milk, eggs, fats, and vegetables per capita.
Despite the economic collapse after the events of August 1998, retail turnout decreased in comparison to that of 1997 only by 2.5% among trading enterprises, and only 1% in markets.
Does this qualify as a crisis?
It’s easier to speculate on hardships. An economic crisis became a profitable excuse for a considerable part of the population, who were becoming richer at the expense of the selling of resources. That’s why the system is stable. The purchasing of goods from abroad is made possible with the financial means obtained primarily from the export of natural resources-oil, gas, mineral raw materials, fish, timber and that which was produced using these raw materials.
Foreign trade during the last 10 years has not decreased; in 1997 it even increased to pre-perestroika levels. An increase in product turnout to foreign countries is occurring against the backdrop of a twofold decrease in automobile trade and equipment, an increase in the selling of raw materials, and increase in metal and chemical industry production.
The less the primary sources of profit--extracting and selling of nature resources--is controlled, the sharper the stratification between the riches of one group in society and the poverty of
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