"We will continue to stagnate, nothing will change." Highlights from an interview with economist Konstantin Sonin

11 Feb 2020

(The Bell) One of Russia’s most famous economists, Konstantin Sonin has worked abroad for many years. He has been a professor at Chicago University since 2015, and before that he worked at two of Russia’s leading universities: the Higher School of Economics and the New Economic School. You can read the full interview in Russian here. Below, we have some highlights. 

Does Russia have stability or stagnation? (GDP growth has been less than 3 percent since 2012 and real incomes are flatlining)

“Stability and stagnation are often the same thing. Stagnation means there is no risk of a sharp fall in the standard of living — no-one in Russia is angered by stagnation. In France, for example, voters don’t want stagnation, they want reform — just like the U.S. or Germany… But in Russia people are very calm about stagnation.” 

Does Russia need a higher birth rate? (Natural population loss in 2019 was almost 260,000 people, and Putin has announced a raft of measures to boost the birth rate)

“Demography is not our most acute problem — you could even say it’s insignificant. It’s very stupid to worry over a 5 percent or 10 percent contraction in the population. You should be worrying about how to stop the emergence of a new Stalinism or another civil war… There are few examples of successful measures to boost the birth rate with material incentives. Instead, incentives mean people give birth earlier — not that there are more children in families. They simply bring forward the birth of the first child.” [...]

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