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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

State Defends Calculations for GDP

A senior official with Russia's State Statistics Committee has denied charges that his agency changed its method of calculating gross domestic product to show growth in the first two months of the year.

Goskomstat's deputy chairman, Vladimir Sokolin, said statistics showing that year-on-year GDP grew 0.1 percent in January and 0.9 percent in February had not been falsified, Interfax reported Saturday. But he added that GDP figures for both months were still preliminary and had not been finalized.

Some experts have contended that increased weight given to the shadow economy -- not adjusted for previous years -- made the government figures invalid, perhaps in an effort to show signs of economic revival.

Alexander Kosarev, the official in charge of calculating GDP for Goskomstat, told The Moscow Times his agency plans to publish revised figures based on a new methodology sometime this fall.

"We need to be sure that all our methodologies are adequate for the current economic situation," Kosarev said.

Charges that the Goskomstat figures were unfairly manipulating economic growth statistics were first reported two weeks ago, leading a growing number of economists to call for greater transparency by the state.

An official with the Finance Ministry's Economic Expert Group said Monday his group had calculated that real GDP actually declined 3 to 4 percent in January and February, compared with the same periods in 1996.

"There was some change to Goskomstat's methodology, but it was not done to manipulate figures," said Evsey Gurvich, an economist with the group. "The January and February figures were too high."

He declined to speculate on why the changes were not made public.

The Goskomstat figures created a stir in economics and business circles, showing as they did Russia's first economic growth in 10 years and coming on the heels of a 6 percent fall in GDP just last year. President Boris Yeltsin and Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin have forecast 2 percent growth this year.

But a report issued March 17 by the Russian-European Center for Economic Policy, an advisory group to the Russian government, questioned the official statistics.

Analysts there maintained that Goskomstat increased its estimate of the size of the untaxed shadow economy in industrial production -- used to calculate GDP -- but failed to revise comparative figures for 1996. The report estimated that, taking into account the changed methodology, real GDP actually fell 6 percent in January 1997.

But the Finance Ministry's Gurvich said his group estimates that the economy is indeed picking up, noting that there was month-on-month growth of 1 to 2 percent in seasonally adjusted GDP for January and February 1997 over December 1996.

Among those calling for greater transparency in calculating Goskomstat figures are Eduard Baranov of the government's Center for Economic Analysis, and Vladimir Bessanov with the Academy of Sciences.

"It would be desirable if Goskomstat publicly explained the reliability of the new methodology," they wrote in the latest issue of the Russian magazine Expert.