Update on Covid-19 in Russia; Russian Economy Predicted to Contract 4-6% in 2020 Due to Economic Effects of Virus; “Where is Putin?” Game Starts Up Among Western “Russia Watchers”

This is report from this past Friday from Russia Matters:

Russia confirmed 5,849 new coronavirus infections on April 24, bringing the country’s official number of cases to 68,622. Six hundred and fifteen people have been killed by the virus, according to The Moscow Times. Meanwhile Russia’s central bank has lowered its key interest rate by half a percentage point to 5.5 percent to help ease the economic impact of the coronavirus outbreak, according to RFE/RL. The bank expects the country’s economy will shrink by 4 percent to 6 percent this year, while the IMF has forecast that Russia’s economy could contract by 5.5 percent, according to the Financial Times.

To put this into perspective, most countries’ economies are expected to contract in 2020 due to the forced economic shutdown from the virus. Some higher end predictions for the U.S. economy this year include a contraction of 10-14% as reported by CNBC:

The U.S. economy could experience a double-digit percentage contraction in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic, Mohamed El-Erian told CNBC on Monday, suggesting a much steeper decline than most economists.

“I think we may be at minus 10% to minus 14% growth for the U.S.,” the Allianz chief economic advisor said on “Squawk Box.” “This is a big hit.” 

El-Erian said the distinct nature of this economic downturn — stemming from a health crisis — means traditional frameworks may not be applicable, acting as a further obstacle for a rebound. “The benefits you would expect normally, lower oil price means more dollars in consumers’ pockets, even that doesn’t work in this economy. So I’m a little bit more worried than what the consensus of economists out there is right now.

According to Bloomberg, Germany, the traditional powerhouse of the EU, is expected to see it’s worst post-WWII contraction this year at over 6%:

Germany expects the fallout from coronavirus to lead to the worst economic contraction since the country began its recovery in the aftermath of World War II.

Gross domestic product is forecast to shrink by 6.3% in 2020, a deeper plunge than even during the financial crisis a decade ago, Handelsblatt reported citing Economy Ministry projections due to be presented next week. The low point of the recession — the worst since at least 1950 — is expected in April, before a gradual stabilization, according to the daily newspaper.

The IMF is projecting zero growth for the Asian economy, which is unprecedented for the past 60 years:

For the first time in 60 years, Asia as a region will not register any economic growth this year because of the coronavirus pandemic, according to forecasts by the International Monetary Fund.

“This is a crisis like no other. It is worse than the Global Financial Crisis, and Asia is not immune,” Chang Yong Rhee, director of the Asia and Pacific Department at the IMF, wrote in a blog post published on Wednesday.

China just suffered its first quarterly GDP contraction in 28 years according to Business Insider:

China’s economy shrank in the first three months of 2020, its first contraction since 1992, as production and spending were frozen by the country’s coronavirus lockdown.

The National Bureau of Statistics reported on Friday [4/17] that gross domestic product fell by 6.8% during the quarter. China hasn’t reported a full year of contraction since the 1970s.

In short, no one is going to escape this economically unscathed. Not by a long shot.

The coming year will reveal who is in a better position to ride it out with relatively less damage in terms of external debt, financial reserves and general macroeconomic stability, productive capacity of essential goods, and a more robust safety net for its population.

Well, I’m afraid it’s time for another rant from me about how bad the mainstream corporate media is in its coverage of Russia. On April 16th, Politico ran an article entitled “As corona casualties mount, Putin keeps a low profile” in which it is suggested that Putin is not doing much amid the pandemic except for delegating authority. The article also calls into question when Putin’s video addresses to the country were recorded while trying to kick up some kind of controversy where there isn’t one.

Now Time magazine is jumping on the “where’s Putin?” bandwagon, suggesting that the Russian president is basically MIA. Apparently checking the Kremlin website (which is in English) where most of Putin’s typically workaholic schedule of meetings is posted is too hard for these paragons of journalism.

This reminds me of the time in March of 2015, when some “Russia watcher” in the corporate media decided to write an article stating that Putin was “missing” for about 10 days or so. This started a whole series of speculations about what had happened to Putin. Some suggested a palace coup, others that he was ill, and still others that he had fathered a love child with the gymnast that he was supposedly carrying on a secret affair with. As it turned out there was absolutely nothing to this idea that Putin had disappeared as the Kremlin website showed meetings that he’d conducted during the time in question, including – if memory serves me correctly – a photo or two. I guess maybe the Kremlin needed to send these “journalists” one of Putin’s fingers in an envelope as proof of life.

This is just another reminder that “journalists” in mainstream corporate media will think nothing of simply making junk up out of whole cloth about Russia. This begs the question: what are they making up about other countries or issues that they and their owners have an interest in making up?