Rosstat data have become inconvenient for the Kremlin and the government. They decided to make sure that no one noticed them “Project” told how Rosstat manipulates figures at the request of Moscow and the regions
In 2019, a study by Rosstat on the living standards of Russians attracted great attention . It said, in particular, that 53% of Russian families cannot pay unexpected expenses for repairs or medicine, 35% – to buy shoes for the season for each family member, 21% – to eat fruit at any time of the year. The Kremlin, represented by the president’s press secretary, Dmitry Peskov, said that it “finds it difficult to understand these data.” Rosstat was forced to explain; the agency said the study, which raised questions in the Kremlin, is one of the most representative and profound in Russia.
In the same year, Rosstat statistics even became an argument in a correspondence discussion between Russian President Vladimir Putin and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson about whether the liberal idea had outlived its usefulness. Johnson, responding to Putin, said that liberal values are directly related to economic well-being. “To put it bluntly, Vladimir, there are countries in the world where … according to Rosstat, a third of the population cannot afford more than two pairs of shoes a year , 12% of people go to the toilet on the street , and real incomes have been declining for five years in a row,” he wrote Johnson, slightly distorting Rosstat data.
Rosstat data have become inconvenient for the government and the Kremlin. They want to release them less often and later.
The government and the presidential administration “shuddered” at the Rosstat news, seeing in them a “threat to social stability,” a former government official told the Project. But members of the government could not prohibit the publication of “bad” figures: for this they would have to amend the law on statistical accounting. Therefore, they decided to “minimize the informational consequences”, said the same source of the “Project”.
Recently, Rosstat has begun to issue statistical reports at an inconvenient time. For example, in May 2020, the department released statistics on the April fall in industry amid a pandemic, not at 16:00, as before, but at 21:00. And in April 2021, Rosstat did not release data on the dynamics of real incomes of Russians on the eve of Putin’s message to the Federal Assembly, but postponed publication for nine days (real incomes fell by 3.6%).
According to Project sources, the Kremlin and the government decided to publish statistics as rarely and as late as possible: all urgent information (for example, data on inflation, unemployment, industry, foreign trade) only once a week, mainly on Wednesday at 19 : 00, and the most sensitive indicators (for example, on mortality from coronavirus) – on Friday night. Rosstat does not like this idea, but it liked two key curators of media policy in the Kremlin and the government – the first deputy head of the presidential administration, Alexei Gromov, and the deputy head of the government apparatus, Leonid Levin, one of the Project’s sources said.
Rosstat is being pressured not only by federal officials, but also by regional authorities. And get their way
However, it is not only Kremlin and government officials who exert pressure on Rosstat. “Once we got a call from the local Ministry of Health with a question: ‘How can we reduce mortality?’ Is this a normal question? Not the Ministry of Health should do something to really reduce it, but, apparently, a statistics agency on paper, ”an employee of one of the territorial statistical offices in the Far East told the Project.
Alexei Raksha, a former adviser to the department of demographic calculations of Rosstat, who left the department after a conflict with the leadership, told the Project that in 2019 Moscow, the Moscow region and Tatarstan asked Rosstat to lower their forecast for life expectancy and overestimate the expected mortality in order to meet Putin’s targets. demographic goals. According to Raksha, the regions were met halfway (for refusal, the authorities allegedly threatened to be fired), but because of this it was not possible to balance the demographic forecast. An unnamed federal official confirmed that “there is basically no real demographic forecast now.”
Falsification of demographic data could have occurred in Sevastopol. According to Rosstat, this is the only region of Russia where life expectancy increased by the end of 2020 (by 0.05 years, although, according to preliminary data, it should have dropped by 0.6 years). This happened due to the fact that the authorities of Sevastopol on paper increased the population by 60 thousand people in 2020, Raksha said. According to demographers, it is beneficial for the regions to overestimate the data on the population size, since this allows them to receive more subsidies from the state budget.
Rosstat hides detailed data on deaths from coronavirus and income of Kremlin officials and government staff
The manipulation of statistics also affected data on deaths during the pandemic, a source close to the government and an unnamed federal official told the Project. According to Rosstat, the death rate in 2020 increased by 340.3 thousand people, but of them only 42.5% of cases (144.7 thousand people) accounted for COVID-19. Otherwise, people died of pneumonia (an increase of 2.4 times), diabetes mellitus (+ 26%), diseases of the nervous system (+ 21%) and “old age” (+ 20%) – although the latter reason can only be indicated in rare cases . The victims of the coronavirus could be recorded in these categories, according to the interlocutors of the Project.
In 2021, Rosstat stopped publishing monthly information about diseases other than COVID-19 that Russians die from. Full mortality statistics are likely to be published only in the summer of 2022, said the source of the Project, close to the leadership of Rosstat.
Rosstat hides not only demographic data, but also income statistics. Back in 2019, the department provided statistics on the wages of federal employees, broken down by ministries and departments. From it one could learn, for example, that employees of the presidential administration and the government apparatus earn much more than the personnel of other federal departments (237 and 240 thousand rubles, respectively). And in 2020, after the arrival of the new Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin in the government, such a breakdown was no longer published .
In addition, in 2019, Rosstat changed the methodology for calculating real incomes of the population, after which they increased by 0.1% (although earlier the department reported on their decrease by 0.1%). In the same year, Rosstat reported a record GDP growth in six years, recalculating data on construction in the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Okrug.
“Project” connects the manipulation of statistics that in 2017 Rosstat subordinated Ministry of Economic Development (previously Office reports directly to the government), and in 2018 changed its head, putting at the head of Pavel Malkov, who previously headed the State Department of Economic Development and Trade Management.