Russian’s are still low-living

Glowing economic statistics show that Russia is in the midst of an oil-fueled boom, but the life expectancy of its citizens remained woefully low, the nation's top statistician said Tuesday. High oil prices have helped Russia's economy rebound significantly from the economic collapse of 1998, pouring billions into state coffers and decking Moscow in the consumer glitter of Western capitals. As a result, gross domestic product grew a healthy 6 percent in 2005, industrial growth was up 4 percent and inflation was 10.9 percent the lowest rate in the past seven years, said Vladimir Sokolin, the head of the Federal State Statistics Service.

"The positive trend of social-economic processes continued in 2005," he told reporters.

With world oil prices high on supply concerns from Nigeria and Iran, Russia is bringing in nearly US$500 million (407 million euros) in revenues from oil and gas exports every 24 hours, analysts say. Petrodollars are dripping through into ordinary Russian's pockets, Sokolin said, with average incomes rising 8.3 percent in real terms in 2005, real wages up 9.7 percent and the average monthly pensions increasing by 9.3 percent over the year.

But as Russia's financial health is improving, the physical health of its citizens continues to be on the decline.

Russia's population dropped by 0.5 percent, or 680,000 people, to 142.8 million last year, Sokolin said. And the average life span of the Russian male is now just 58 the level to which it dropped in the social turmoil that followed the default just over seven years ago. "Nothing has changed with regard to life expectancy," he said.

"Unlike the birth rate it is in the hands of society. Primarily this is connected both with the standard and quality of health care and with peoples' lifestyle," he said.

Among the causes for the decline in population, which has been dropping steadily since the 1991 Soviet collapse, were reduced birth rates and life expectancy, caused by increased poverty, alcoholism and emigration.

President Vladimir Putin has said Russia's ailing health care system would be a priority earmark for some of the US$4 billion (3 billion euros) oil-fueled, social spending this year.

In a December report, titled "Dying Too Young," the World Bank said that with an average life expectancy of 66 years, Russia lags behind Japan by 16 years and the European Union by an average of 14 years, reports the AP.


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