About 50% of Russians today do not have savings or just enough savings for the next 4 weeks if production and business activities do not recover.
The situation of Covid-19 epidemic in Russia is very complicated. From just a few cases in early March, Russia now has more than 290,000 people infected, ranking second in the world after the US while Russia’s population is only half.
Despite many anti-epidemic actions, it is clear that the Covid-19 epidemic has made the Russian medical industry reveal many weaknesses. Russia’s medical infrastructure system is not much invested and has little reform. Consequently, most of Russia’s equipment and pharmaceutical products depend on imported sources.
Since the Soviet era, the government has been trying to make the health system free for everyone, but it was not a top priority for policymakers. As a result, although the health care is cheap, the quality is quite low, the service is ineffective and receives little investment from the budget. Overloading of patient beds as well as long-term patients’ treatment is common in Russia.
Even doctors are largely paid less than they actually are and are not respected by society.
In recent years, Russian President Vladimir Putin has tried to change the situation. Thanks to oil revenues, the government has strengthened programs to provide extra care and medical services to people, and doctors’ wages have improved.
Although the death rate from diseases in Russia has decreased, poor quality clinics have been removed and the number of newly built hospitals has increased, but that is not enough to meet the needs of the people. Corruption in hospital-building and equipment-import projects still exists.
Data from Bloomberg shows that Russia is still one of the countries with the most inefficient health systems in the world. Ironically, the health systems of the United States, Azerbaijan and Bulgaria are even underestimated due to high drug prices or lack of care facilities.
When the Covid-19 outbreak broke out, many Russian doctors were inexperienced in dealing with similar pandemics, health workers lacked protective gear, while hospitals did not have enough patient beds or ventilators. patient. Bloomberg News reported that Russia currently has about 400 outbreaks of the Covid-19 epidemic nationwide and thousands of health workers with symptoms. According to an unofficial Bloomberg source, Russia now has more than 220 health workers killed by the Covid-19 epidemic, an astounding high among infected countries.
The worrying thing now is that the Russian health system is too focused on urban areas and ignores the countryside. In a 2016 report by the Russian Parliament, only half of the country’s 130,000 rural settlements have access to health care. Russia now has 42,000 ventilators, several times more than the UK, but one-quarter of them are concentrated in Moscow.
Out of money
Leaving aside the weakness of the health system, the Russians now face an even greater challenge: how to survive the Covid-19 epidemic.
Grigory Sverdlin has been a distributor of free charity meals in St. Petersburg for the past 20 years. But the man has to admit that the number of poor people who ask for free meals has never been so much now.
“In St. Petersburg we usually distribute about 80 meals each night at each location. But now this number has risen to 120-140. There are too many unemployed or homeless on the street, or even There is simply no money to buy food, “said Sverdlin.
Despite having the second highest number of infections in the world, Russia still has to loosen quarantine orders to save the economy, especially when the country’s main source of revenue is oil prices. Bloomberg reports that the people of Russia can only save for about 6 weeks without any business activities and with very limited support from the government.
Meanwhile, a survey of the Moscow Center for Strategic Studies (MCSR) said that about 50% of Russians today do not have any savings or just enough savings for the next 4 weeks if production and business activities. Joint not restored. The Russian central bank (BoR) also said that about a quarter of Russian citizens have been spending their savings since the quarantine order was imposed due to reduced income.
“The situation of income reduction in Russia is very bad. The pressure on the government will be greater regardless of whether to loosen the gap or introduce supportive policies or not,” economist Dmitry Dolgin of the bank said. ING Bank said.
The Russian government currently has about US $ 165 billion in available reserves, but they are wary of saving money to save people because they are wary of an even worse situation. In addition, the main source of oil revenue decline due to devaluation also limits the policies of the Moscow government.
Data from Bloomberg Economics shows that the disposable income of the Russian people in the second quarter of 2020 is on track to fall to an all-time low since 2006.
President Putin has declared a series of policies such as giving money to households, tax exemptions or preferential loans, but Dolgin said that the total value of these relief packages is only about 3-4% of GDP, a number too small compared to actual needs.
The report of the Moscow Institute of Advanced Economics (MHSE) shows that the current government’s supportive policies only alleviate 2 percentage points of the income reduction in the second quarter of 2020, while the decline The remaining 20% reduction does not have any relief measures yet.
BoR’s survey found that nearly 50% of Russians had to cut costs, even for food to save money. The 10,000 Ruble (USD 136) per child payment website also received over 2 million applications on the first day of opening.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) forecasts that Russia’s economy will decline by 5.5% in 2020, twice as much as the world average. Russia’s economic recovery is also expected to be slower than other regions.
Returning to Mr. Sverdlin’s story, his charity Nochlezhka opened more points of reference in Moscow amid growing demand.
“In the few years after the 2014 oil crisis, the number of people asking for treatment in Russia has increased, but it is nothing compared to the current crisis. I am worried that the number of people who come for a consultation in the next few months will double.” 3 times, “said Sverdlin pityly.