By Paul Goble
Last year, Credit Suisse reports, the total wealth of the people of the world increased 6.4 percent to 280 trillion US dollars. Of that, Russians had only slightly more than one half of one percent — and most of that wealth is concentrated in a tiny segment at the top of the national income pyramid, with 80 percent of Russians not having any wealth at all.
The total amount of personal wealth by this measure in Russia “has not reached two trillion US dollars,’ Nezavisimaya gazeta reports, noting in addition that over the last year, this measure has fallen by 28 percent in dollar equivalents while rising 73 percent when expressed in rubles (ng.ru/economics/2017-11-16/4_7116_dolya.html).
At present, the paper continues, each Russian on average has 16,770 US dollars in wealth, up from less than 3,000 on that measure in 2000. But there is enormous income and wealth inequality in Russia, with those in the top one-tenth of one percent have capital greater than a million US dollars, while 82 percent have “less than 10,000 US dollars” each.
Viewed from another perspective, there are 132,000 dollar millionaires in Russia, and 69 billionaires, with 2.1 million Russians being in the top ten percent of the world’s wealthiest and 175,000 being in the top one percent. Those at the bottom thus are far behind not only their wealthiest domestically but internationally.
While globalization and economic change have produced income inequality of unprecedented size, that development is now in Russia and elsewhere having a negative impact on economic growth, according to Moscow experts with who the newspaper spoke.
Andrey Klepach of Vsneshekonombank, points out that the level of income inequality in Russia is now just what it was at the beginning of the 2000s, but there is an important difference: Then incomes were growing and poverty was being overcome. “Now we have another situation: poverty is growing and incomes for the last three years have fallen 10 percent in real terms
And according to Ivan Karyakin of Global FX, the situation in Russia “will only get worse.” Indeed, he argues, “the model of economic growth” Russia is following meaning that “the gap in incomes will only increase,” something that will create problems given that an overwhelming majority of Russians believe economic inequality there is too great.