When we all think of Russia – we tend to think of it as the alternative superpower – the controlled economy ying to the capitalist yang of the Unites States, the loud dissenting voice of the post-capitalist and post-Soviet world.
It turns out much of this post is WWII thinking, brought to us by Hollywood villains, the way that they portray themselves on the world stage, with things like murdering dissenters, changing the constitution to allow Putin to remain in office, the sinking of the Kursk and rumour of involvement in rigging the American elections.
In the Summer break, CoreData went to Russia to understand what the rich there are doing, because while there are just as many millionaires in Russia as there are in Australia there are almost 20 times as many people who have more than $100 million in investable assets – but that of course is how Oligarchies work and that makes them very interesting to private bankers anywhere.
The economic news is frankly pretty bad. Russia is in a nasty recession; the middle class has effectively halved in size in the past three years, as the falling Ruble and oil and gas sector and the reality of a Government that doesn’t much care for the mass of its people are biting hard.
A falling middle class is a bad sign for an economy – because they are the engine of growth – they employ the people and they in every economy around the world are the people who pay the tax.
The Oligarchs too are hurting – because of the lack of security in the Russian financial system (600 banks were closed down last year) and the collapse in the value of the currency added to the relatively high cost of lending, means the thing that they are most interested in doing is getting their cash out of Russia.