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Thursday, September 28, 2006

Another Report Card, Another Failing Grade for Russia

La Russophobe has already reported on a series of disastrous performances by Russia in international evaluations for competent government and civil society. The Transparancy International think tank, prestigious Foreign Policy magazine and the World Bank itself have all condemned the Kremlin for destroying democracy and the market economy inside Russia so as to preserve dictatorship, placing Russia in the same company as the third-world African nation of Niger.

Now the World Economic Forum joins the fray. It places Russia #62 out of 125 nations surveyed in terms of "economic competitiveness"-- well behind Kazakhstan and in the same company as basket cases like El Salvador and Egypt. Russia plummeted from position #53 last year, a decline of nearly 17% in just one year. Former Soviet slave states like Estonia (#25), Latvia (#36) and Lithuania (#40) are leaving Russia in their dust. If you were to remove Russia's oil revenues from this picture, Russia's score would barely register on the WEF scale.

Here's what the WEF had to say about Russia's performance:

The private sector in Russia has serious misgivings about the independence of the judiciary and the administration of justice. Legal redress in Russia is neither expeditious, transparent nor inexpensive, unlike in the world’s most competitive economies. A ranking of only 110 among 125 countries in 2006 suggests that it is time-consuming, unpredictable and a cost burden to enterprises. Partly because of this, the property rights regime is extremely poor and worsening. Russia’s ranking in this indicator during the last two years has suffered a precipitous decline, from 88 in 2004 to 114 in 2006, among the worst in the world.
That's right, Russia's respect for property rights is "among the worst in the world." As Russia has gotten less poor, its respect for wealth has diminished. And these are GOOD economic times. Can you imagine how the Kremlin will deal with property rights, and other legal rights, once it's been squeezed for a while by the falling price of oil?

Scary, isn't it?

Time and again, what we see from outside appraisals of the Kremlin, from respected and diverse expert panels, is the indication of abject failure, fundamental corruption destroying even a semblance of morality, a descent back in to the darkness of totalitiarian dictatorship.

La Russophobe is put to mind of the character played by Morgan Freeman in The Shawshank Redemption. Released from prison, all he can think about is how difficult life is on the outside and what he might do to get himself arrested and put back into his comfortable prison home. Maybe, quite simply, Russians don't want to be free, don't want to shrug off the hardships of dictatorship, and don't care who they hurt in the process. How else can one explain continuing to favor "President" Putin with 70%+ approval ratings when study after study shows the disastrous consequences of his rule?

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