Russian State Statistics Stops Real Income Report after Weak Numbers

After years of declining real income numbers suggested a fall in Russian’s standard of living, the Russian state statistics service has halted its monthly reports on the population’s real income, or income adjusted for inflation, the New York Times reports.

Economists were sceptical about how realistic the service’s numbers were after the appointment of a new director in December, just days after President Vladimir V. Putin criticized what he called the poor quality of state statistics. After the appointment of a new head of Rosstat, a flurry of new, optimistic economic data followed. The new director, Pavel Malkov, revised figures for the gross domestic product in past years to show, for example, that 2016 was not actually a recession year in Russia, but that it showed modest growth.

Last month, the agency released its estimate for 2018 growth showing the best economic results in six years: an expansion of 2.3 percent, well above the consensus of independent analysts of 1.7 percent. Even economists at Russian state banks were sceptical. The service attributed much of the unexpected growth to a fortuitous burst of construction in December.

“There were a number of surprises from Rosstat,” Vladimir Tikhomirov, chief economist for BCS Global Markets, said in a telephone interview. The revisions and better-than-consensus reports “cast doubt on whether this is a purely statistical event, or a dressing-up of statistics to show a slightly better picture.”

Rosstat has stood by the 2018 number but said it incorrectly listed construction data from previous months in December, and that it will revise past reports.