Last year, we felt the cost of the cold weather and whilst we haven’t seen such low temperatures this year, gas shortages are also emerging. Across Eastern Europe, temperatures have fallen well below -30ºC and so demand for gas has unsurprisingly increased.
Thanks to these low temperatures, Russian gas supplies are running low and several countries have seen their deliveries of gas fall. However, the Russian gas monopoly, Gazprom has said that supplies have not been cut and that it has been exporting more gas during these cold times. The blame, according to Alexander Medvedev (the Deputy CEO of Gazprom), lies with the Ukraine taking gas at a pace significantly above contracted levels. The following articles consider this issue.
Russia, Ukraine argue over gas as EU reports shortage Reuters (2/2/12)
Freezing Europe hit by Russian gas shortage BBC News (4/2/12)
Gazprom says ‘Perplexed’ by EU supply drop as Ukraine takes gas Bloomberg BusinessWeek, Anna Shiryaevskaya (3/2/12)
Gazprom cuts gas supplies amid cold snap Financial Times, Guy Chazan (3/2/12)
Gazprom ‘unable to pump extra gas to Europe’ Associated Press (4/2/12)
- Using a demand and supply diagram, illustrate what we would expect to see with a gas shortage.
- What has been the cause of this current gas shortage? Use a diagram to illustrate the causes.
- What would you expect to happen to prices following this gas shortage?
- Gazprom is said to be a monopoly: what are the characteristics of a monopoly?
- As there are other gas suppliers, how can Gazprom be said to be a monopolist?
Inequality is growing in most countries. This can be illustrated by examining what has been happening to countries’ Gini coefficient. The Gini coefficient measures income inequality, where 0.00 represents perfect equality, with everyone in the country earning the same, and 1.00 represent perfect inequality, with one person earning all the country’s income. (Note that sometimes it is expressed as the ‘Gini index’, with 100 representing perfect inequality). In virtually all countries, the Gini coefficient has been rising. In the OECD countries it has risen by an average of 0.3% per annum over the past 25 years. The OECD average is now 0.31.
But despite the fact that the Gini coefficient has been rising, its value differs markedly from one country to another, as does its rate of change. For example, Finland’s Gini coefficient, at 0.26, is below the average, but it has been rising by 1.2% per annum. By contrast, Turkey’s Gini coefficient, at 0.41, is above the average and yet has been falling by 0.3% per annum.
The most unequal of the developed countries is the USA. According to OECD data, its Gini coefficient is 0.38, well above the values in the UK (0.34), Japan (0.33), Germany (0.30) France (0.29) and Denmark (0.26). What is more, inequality in the USA has been increasing by an average of 0.5% per annum since the mid 1980s.
According to the United Nations’ Human Development Report 2010, the USA’s Gini coefficient is even higher, at 0.41 (see Table 3 of the report). But this is still below that of Russia, with a figure of 0.44, a figure that has markedly worsened over time, along with those of other former Soviet countries. According to the report (page 72):
The worsening is especially marked in countries that were part of the former Soviet Union – which still have relatively low Gini coefficients because they started with low inequality. Transition has eroded employment guarantees and ended extensive state employment. Before the fall of the Berlin Wall, 9 of 10 people in socialist countries were employed by the state, compared with 2 of 10 in Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development economies. While the privileged elite (the nomenklatura) often attained higher material well-being, the measured differences in income were narrow.
The Gini coefficient for Russia is the same as the average of the 39 developing countries with the lowest level of human development &nbash; and developing countries are generally much less equal than developed ones. Of course, some developing countries have an even higher Gini coefficient: for Angola the figure is 0.59; for Haiti it is 0.60.
The following three webcasts look at aspects of the growing inequality in Russia.
Gap between rich and poor widens in Russia BBC News, Jamie Robertson (29/5/11)
Corruption slows Russian modernisation BBC News, Emma Simpson (29/5/11)
Corruption and poverty in Russia’s far east Al Jazeera (28/2/11)
Russia’s rich double their wealth, but poor were better off in 1990s Guardian, Tom Parfitt (11/4/11)
Russia’s growing wealth gap BBC News, Jamie Robertson (28/5/11)
A Country of Beggars and Choosers Russia Profile, Svetlana Kononova (16/5/11)
Rich and poor, growing apart The Economist (3/5/11)
Distribution of family income – Gini Index CIA World Factbook (ranked by country in desending order)
Society at a Glance 2011 – OECD Social Indicators OECD: see particularly the Excel file 6. Equity Indicators: Income inequality (click on No if prompted about a linked workbook)
Russia Distribution of family income – Gini index Index Mundi
Chart of the week: inflation stoking inequality in China and India Financial Times, Andrew Whiffin (24/5/11)
List of countries by income equality Wikipedia
Growing Income Inequality in OECD Countries: What Drives it and How Can Policy Tackle it? OECD Forum on Tackling Inequality (2/5/11)
Human Development Report 2010 United Nations Development Programme
- Explain what is meant by the Gini coefficient. How does it relate to the Lorenz curve? What does a figure of 0.31 mean?
- Why has income inequality been growing in most countries of the world? Has the process of globalisation dampened or exacerbated this trend?
- What specific factors in Russia can explain the growing inequality?
- How is privatisation likely to affect income distribution??
- Why is it difficult to quantify the extent of inequality in Russia?
- What maxim of taxation has been used in setting income tax rates in Russia?
- What role does corruption play in determining the degree of inequality in Russia?
- What policy measures, if any, could realistically be adopted in Russia to reduce inequality? What constraints are there on adopting such policies?
Russia has been growing rapidly. Average earnings have recently been growing at 20% a year and consumption growth has not been far behind this. Moscow apparently has more ‘6-series BMWs’ than any other city in the world. With Vladimir Putin now the prime minister he has promised to rein in inflation and boost social spending on housing and infrastructure. So what are the prospects for Russia in the next decade?
Russia: giant of a new economic world order Observer (25/05/08)
Vladimir Putin pledges to transform economy of Russia into a world leader Times Online (9/05/08)
Putin in 2020 pledge on economy BBC News Online (8/05/08)
||Assess the recent economic performance of the Russian economy.
||Examine the importance of oil to the Russian economy. What can the Russian government do to reduce the dependence on oil revenues?
||Discuss the importance of infrastructure and spending on other social capital for the development of the Russian economy.
Price controls – limiting the price of goods through government intervention in a market – have fallen out of fashion to a great extent as an economic policy tool in the past couple of decades, but they may be making a comeback in Argentina, Russia and China according to the article below from Slate magazine.
Cry for me Argentina (and Russia and China) MSN Slate (30/10/07)
||Using supply and demand diagrams as appropriate, illustrate the ways in which price controls have been used to influence prices in Argentina and Russia and China.
||Examine the reasons why the Argentinean government has chosen to implement price controls for energy.
||Discuss the likely effectiveness of price controls in combating inflation in Russia, China and Argentina.
With the news this month of the death of Boris Yeltsin, it has been an opportunity to look back at the economic legacy of the first democratically-elected President of Russia. Boris Yeltsin took over at a time when all goods were scarce and the industrial infrastructure was crumbling. He adopted policies of extensive privatisation and abandoned price controls. To what extent has this created the Russia of today and what is the legacy he has left behind?
Yeltsin’s moment The Economist (subscription) (26/4/07)
Yeltsin’s economic legacy BBC News Online (24/4/07)
||Explain the reasoning behind the policies that were adopted by Boris Yeltsin in his early years in office.
||Discuss the extent to which those policies enabled the development of the Russian economy.
||Assess the current state of the Russian economy.