Putin's Economy is so Bad, Many Russians Can't Afford New Shoes

A woman tries on shoes in the newly opened Hennes & Mauritz (H&M) store in Moscow, March 13, 2009. REUTERS/Denis Sinyakov

To see the state of Vladimir Putin's economy, look down at Russians' feet. The weakening ruble is making Russians more cautious about their purchases, and annual shoe sales across the country have dropped in recent months as Russians wait for their footwear to completely wear out before buying new ones, the Moscow Times reported Tuesday.

With the cost of affordable shoes growing about 20 percent in the past two years, Russians are now buying about 2.5 pairs of shoes a year, Russia's Fashion Consulting Group found. At the same time, the cost of high-end shoes soared by 100 percent. In contrast, Americans purchased about 7.8 shoes per capita in 2015.

Under President Putin, Russia's economy has seen real income drop for the third consecutive year and poverty climb by 15 percent as global oil prices remain low. Russians now spend about 50 percent of their money on food.

Russia's weakened currency has also seen the prices of imported goods become more expensive, while Russian Finance Minister Anton Siluanov has projected that the national economy would grow by just 1.5 percent this year. In all, Russia's GDP sank from $2.23 trillion in 2013 to $1.33 trillion in 2015, a 40 percent drop. It then fell by another 0.6 percent in 2016.

Russia's woes stem from its oil-dependent economy and Western sanctions imposed after its annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014. That year, oil revenues made up 50 percent of government revenue. Russia's 2016 budget counted on oil selling for $50 per barrel, when the average oil price last year was roughly $43 per barrel.

Despite the dismal data, Russian officials have sought to persuade global investors and Russians that the economy has begun to turn around. "We have some recovery growth, and the period of crisis is ending. Uncertainty in the economy has also fallen considerably," Economic Development Minister Maksim Oreshkin said in February.

Aside from shoe sales, Russians have had to grapple with the nation's economic crisis in other ways in recent years. Official data last year showed divorces had declined by 13 percent in 2015, down from 574,000 martial break-ups in 2014. The difficulty of funding two households rather than one may be keeping marriages together.