By Paul Goble
Many officials assume that if the economy of a region is doing relatively well, people will want to stay there; but in fact, unless economic growth translates into an improved quality of life for the population, people will want to leave. That is what is happening in Siberia and the Russian Far East.
There, the overall economic numbers are not bad, economists say; but they haven’t translated into improvements in the quality of life of residents. As a result, people are leaving in droves, few are being attracted to come there, and almost half of the people in some federal subjects there say they want to leave (ng.ru/economics/2023-10-01/1_8840_siberia.html).
Putin and the Kremlin have celebrated the growth of economic enterprises in Siberia and the Far East but failed to recognize that that trend will mean little if the population doesn’t feel that its life is improving and decides to leave. Indeed, that pattern creates a serious security problem for Russia as a whole.
Social pathologies arise from this situation, experts say. In six of the 13 subjects of the Siberian macro-region, they report, the share of those suffering from alcoholism and drug dependence is significantly higher than the all-Russian average. Also, the use of tobacco is higher in 11; and in nine, the share of HIV infected exceeds the rate of the country as a whole.
Tragically, Moscow’s policy has been to promote economic growth but do little to improve the quality of life of the population, a policy that has drawn fire from experts but shows little sign of being changed. As a result, the current economic growth east of the Urals is unlikely to be sustainable in the future.