SocraticGadfly: Friedman gets Russia wrong

July 14, 2010

Friedman gets Russia wrong

In his joking column (or is that joke of a column, the norm, it seems) about the denouement of the Russian spy ring, Tom Friedman talks about the allegedly tanking Russian economy:
Were it not for oil, gas and mineral exports, Russia’s economy would be contracting even more than it has. Moscow’s most popular exports today are probably what they were under Khrushchev: vodka, Matryoshka dolls and Kalashnikov rifles.


All little Tommy had to do was crack the CIA Factbook online:
(I)n 2009 Russia was the world's largest exporter of natural gas, the second largest exporter of oil, and the third largest exporter of steel and primary aluminum. ... A revival of Russian agriculture in recent years has led to Russia shifting from being a net grain importer to a net grain exporter. The economy had averaged 7% growth since the 1998 Russian financial crisis, resulting in a doubling of real disposable incomes and the emergence of a middle class.

True, it's not a bed of roses. But, finished steel and primary aluminum aren't "mineral exports." Besides, many of those mineral exports are almost as valuable as oil. Maybe more so, in some cases.

And, as for the snark about Russian government mismanagement, per Wiki:
The federal budget has run surpluses since 2001 and ended 2007 with a surplus of 6% of GDP.

Six percent of GDP? We'd be installing a president for life who produced a $600 billion surplus, or something like that.

On the agriculture side, to follow up on the CIA report, Wiki notes that only the EU and the US are bigger agricultural exporters. Yes, Russia is ahead of Brazil, Argentina and Australia, among others.

Finally, Russia is supposedly third, behind only China and India, in computer software outsourcing.
The IT market is one of the most dynamic sectors of the Russian economy. Russian software exports have risen from just $120 million in 2000 to $1.5 billion in 2006. Since the year 2000 the IT market has demonstrated growth rates of 30-40 percent a year, growing by 54% in 2006 alone.

So, once again, STFU, Friedman.

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