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Monday, July 23, 2007

Another Day, Another International Review, Another Miserable, Humiliating Failing Grade for Vladimir Putin's Russia

Well, the World Bank has just released its 2007 World Governance Indicators report, and once again a prestigious, respected international organization has trashed the Putin regime -- which, once again, just as in Soviet times, has tried to blame foreign "russophobia" instead of undertaking needed reform. We've documented this phenomenon many times, here's our summary for 2006, a joltingly dismal report card for Russia.

Even RIA Novosti gets it: Russia is unqualified for G-8 membership or any other role among the advanced nations of the world. RIA states:

This week, the World Bank Institute published its sixth annual Worldwide Governance Indicators. The Bank summarizes six aggregate indicators to arrive at an assessment of how well countries are governed: i) Voice & Accountability, ii) Political Stability and Lack of Violence/Terrorism, iii) Government Effectiveness, iv) Regulatory Quality v) Rule of Law and vi) Control of Corruption. Needless to say, the G7 and the OECD continue to boast the high values which indicate better governance - in other words, these are the advanced first-world countries, or those aspiring to become developed. But no matter how you slice and dice the data, Russia almost invariably appears far below the advanced countries and falls in the ranks of the lower percentiles, which indicate the percentage of countries worldwide that rate below the selected country. President Putin has frequently complained that international reporting on Russia is biased and unfair, that the media focus on the bad news rather than on positive developments. There is certainly some truth in this - Western reporting on the Soviet Union and on Yeltsin and Putin's Russia has varied between brilliant and insightful and downright incompetent. Nevertheless, Putin's comments display a profound failure to understand what drives the 24/7 international news agenda. And as new reports by the World Bank and the Swedish Defense Research Agency make clear, it is hard to put a good spin on bad policies.

Russia's World Bank data is accessible here and here. As shown below (click the graphic to see it full size), its score is down from the prior year in every one of the six assessed categories except political stability and is in the red warning area (bottom quartile in the world) in four of the six categories:

Russia's "rule of law" score has now slipped into the bottom fifth of all 212 countries surveyed by the World Bank (that means 80% of the countries in the world, four out of five surveyed, have more respect for the law than Russia). Again, Putin's Russia is in the bottom quartile among the 212 countries surveyed in four of the six categories (shown in red), including stability, and as high as the top half in none. It moved into the bottom quartile this year in two categories where it was above that level previously, and failed to climb out in the other two. It has a "minus" governance score in every category. The decline in "regulatory quality," previously Russia's area of highest achievement, was the most dramatic; here Russia's percentile score fell from a score of 42 in 2005 to a score of 34 in 2006 -- a decline of 20% in just one year. Russia's highest percentile score now is the "governmental effectiveness" category, but this slipped from 41 last year to 38 this year.

The same pattern appears when comparing last year's results to the year before that; Russia's scores fell in four of six categories after the passage of one year. Comparing Russia's scores to ten years ago, when according to the Putinites Russia was a total basket case on life support, shows that Russia is still in the bottom quartile in three categories (corruption, rule of law and stability), has fallen into the bottom quartile in voice/accountability, and has climbed out of the bottom quartile only in governmental effectiveness and regulatory quality. But those two improvements are marginal, since Russia still has negative scores in both areas and has lost ground in both areas in each of the past two years. Russia has sacrificed the freedom it enjoyed in the Yetsin years without making any significant progress towards becoming a successful state.

How can this banana republic possibly be a member of the G-8? How can it be allowed to host the Olympic Games? More important, how can such a disastrous regime, measured quantitatively, possibly enjoy 70%+ approval from the population, even as the population plunges and the entire world is alienated by cold-war policies? Has the world, and have the Russian people, gone mad?

Vladimir Putin has been an unmitigated disaster in Russia. He's offering Russia "stability" -- only in a relative sense, Russia is still a basket case by international standards in that criteria -- at the price of every other aspect of civilized society being placed in retrograde. In other words, he's offering exactly what Stalin offered. How long before Russia meets the USSR's fate?

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