Statistics as an indicator of the state of the economy

Today, an article by G. Khanin and D. Fomin was published in the mass media. The authors of the above article put forward a thesis that the official macroeconomic statistics published by the Rosstat, primarily, the data on the dynamics of GDP, individual industries and capital funds is distorted.

In addition to the above, the authors provide the outputs of their own alternative calculations -- which are not fundamental ones by any means – under which, for example, "the Russian economy failed to attain the volumes of the Soviet economy: in 2013 the size of the Russian GDP amounted to about 84% of GDP of the RSFSR in 1987 (according to the data of the official statistics it surpassed it by 16%)", while in 2013 there was an economic slump of 2%–3% (it is to be reminded that by estimates of the Rosstat in 2013 there was a 1.3% growth in GDP as compared to the previous year).

So, according to the authors of the above article the economic crisis at the moment is much deeper that the official statistics data shows and reduction of the material base of the economy, that is, the volume of capital funds is named as a factor behind it. In authors' opinion, such a distortion of the statistical data is justified by both political factors (the statistics is becoming an indicator of the authorities' success and not the instrument of assessment of actual economic trends) and substantial worsening of work conditions of the statistical service (growth in the shadow economy, tax evasion, criminalization of the economy and other).

The above article is quite interesting and topical in terms of the ongoing discussion of the presence and future of Russia's economic development. It is to be added that apart from inaccuracies of GDP official estimates listed by G Khanin and D. Fomin, an important aspect of accounting of the effect of trade conditions, in particular, the situation on the global markets of energy resources can be singled out. The above aspect is many-sided and includes such issues as accounting of changes in oil prices in GDP deflator, estimate of contribution of the oil and gas sector to GDP (both gross output of industries and intermediary consumption, that is, production costs), as well as the estimate of the situation component of GDP growth justified by trade conditions. So, according to our estimates in 2013 the situation "foreign trade" component of GDP growth rates amounted to about 1.2%; without the above component there would have been zero growth.

At the same time, evaluation of the fact whether the methods used by the Rosstat are correct requires individual in-depth research. In reality, in our view, evaluation of the extent of the economic recession in Russia and identification of a threat of a recession can be carried out by means of analysis of negative trends which are observed of late in the Russian economy. (see Fig. 1).

Source: Rosstat.

Fig. 1. Dynamics of the main macroeconomic indices of the RF, % of the respective period of the previous year, January 2013 – January 2014


The unstable dynamics of the ruble exchange rate, substantial capital flight from Russia (according to the estimates of the Ministry of Economic Development of the Russian Federation only in January 2014 the net capital outflow from Russia amounted to about $17bn, while according to the data of the Central Bank of the Russian Federation that index amounted in general to $62.7bn in 2013) and the reaction of the Russian market to political developments cause serious concerns.


So, in our view, the above actual dynamics of the main macroeconomic indices and the 2014 forecast point to an acute need of radical measures to be taken to break negative trends, revitalize the economy and create conditions for sustained economic growth rather than any significant achievements of the current economic policy.

Maria Kazakova, PhD (Economics), Deputy Head of the International Department of Budget Stability Research