Putin orders bureaucrats to begin regular reporting on virus’ economic impact

Russian President Vladimir Putin is today expected to order the country’s Ministry of Finance to begin compiling monthly reports on

russia economy

Photo: Andrey Rudakov/Bloomberg

Russian President Vladimir Putin is today expected to order the country’s Ministry of Finance to begin compiling monthly reports on the effect of COVID-19 on the Russian economy.

To date, Russia has over 1,800 confirmed cases of the virus. Between government-ordered lockdowns and the breakdown of the OPEC+ oil production pact between Russia and Saudi Arabia, economic forecasts for the country appear grim. Since the start of the year, the rouble has fallen 20% and the global price of oil has hit an eighteen-year low.

Depressed oil prices and a COVID-19 slowdown pose a threat not only to the economic health of Russia but also to the future political stability of Putin’s regime. Although the Russian president has delayed a planned April 22 constitutional referendum vote that, if approved, would allow him to stay in power until 2036, energy industry layoffs and greater unemployment could galvanise the opposition movement.

While the Kremlin will attempt to stem the spread of COVID-19 and stabilise fluctuating markets through central bank action, new political forces may emerge in Russia in the meantime, especially if economic desperation drives existing underground dissidents to more open anti-government action. Conditions are ripe for new opposition forces to emerge, especially after local elections last September saw a number of opposition leaders excluded from ballots and victories from those aligned with the Kremlin.

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