Despite the obvious significance of capital asset statistics in economic analysis and forecasting, it is one of the most complex aspects of macroeconomic statistical analysis. Although attempts to calculate the value of national wealth had been made since the 17th century, satisfactory statistics of fixed assets did not appear until the mid-20th century. Even nowadays, numerous difficulties are encountered when estimating their value, which affect the credibility of its results. The question is whether, like most Russian economists, we should use the relevant Rosstat indicators or if they are wrong economic analysis and forecasting should be based on specially made alternative estimates. We support the second viewpoint.
Previously, we evaluated the consumption and accumulation of capital assets for 2001 , assessed the nature of the reproduction of funds in individual years , and approximately estimated the dynamics of the physical volume of funds since 1987 . This article represents the continuation of our research and contains some additional detailed calculations. The key categories of the undertaken economic analysis are the existing capital assets and their change over the post-Soviet period. In our opinion, these calculations will substantiate our argument for the erroneousness of Rosstat’s data and will allow us to more carefully assess the scale of the problems facing the economy and society caused by the degradation of the material basis of national production.
In our estimates, we make no claim to accuracy, but believe that we have correctly identified the trends and assessed the approximate dynamics of the fixed asset value for 1992-2015. This is a generalized study that relies on our previous publications, primarily those related to calculating the replacement value of fixed assets in the leading sectors of the Russian economy.
Ratio between the replacement and book values of fixed assets in RF economy based on the sectoral estimates, 2001-2007.
Ratio of the asset replacement and book values. The estimate of the replacement value for fixed assets, i.e., in current prices, makes it possible to analyze the renewal of these assets. Meanwhile, the underestimation of fixed assets due to the inability to reliably determine their replacement value in a timely manner and is a chronic problem of domestic statistics . The methodology of our earlier calculations for obtaining the replacement value of fixed assets in key sectors of the economy is based on a comparison of the book and market values of individual objects that have a pronounced natural characteristic, e.g., for railways, kilometers of the main track; for the electric power industry, the capacity to generate units of energy; for utilities, the extent of the communal infrastructure; for public catering, seating capacity, etc.
Calculations of the ratio between the replacement and book values in the key sectors of the Russian economy, which was characteristic of 2001-2007, showed a significant underestimation of funds by the official statistics (Table 1). For several reasons, our calculations are likely to overestimate the ratio of the replacement and book values. First of all, they do not take into account the qualitative changes in the commissioned assets compared to the existing ones. In addition, it was not always possible to clearly differentiate the technological structure of investment, or to distinguish between capital investment in new production and investment in modernization and renovation of the existing facilities, which resulted in an overestimated value of the commissioned assets. We also failed to take into account changes in the asset mix, in particular to recognize the cost of land plots as asset liabilities. Therefore, in order to improve the reliability of calculations, we assumed an understated ratio of 8 : 1 between the replacement value and the book value relative to the average level (see Table 1). Since most of the previous calculations were carried out as applied to 2001 (or included this year in the calculation interval), this year was later selected as the base year.
Calculation of the ratio between the replacement and book values of fixed assets in Russian Federation, 1992-2015.* Before 1998, billion rubles.
Comments on Table 2
The presented book value of fixed assets is based on the data of official statistics. At the same time, the asset value at the beginning of the corresponding year is equal to the asset value at the end of the previous year (column 1) [II]. Based on the annual values of the coefficients of asset renewal (column 2) and their retirement (column 4), the values of the acquired (column 3) and retired (column 5) assets were estimated. At the same time, it is taken into account that renewal coefficients are calculated by official statistics based on the total asset value at the end of the year and the asset retirement rates are determined at the beginning of the year. Based on the asset value at the beginning of the year, the values of assets acquired and retired during the year, the estimated asset value is obtained at the end of the year (column 6).
This estimated value is at variance with the actual asset value at the end of the year, which is declared by the Rosstat based on the source accounting documents submitted by organizations (column 7). The reason is that, during this period, the economic agents performed the revaluation of the assets. Over the considered period, these revaluations were performed on the national scale as of July 1, 1992 and January 1, 1994, 1995, 1996, and 1997. After 1997, asset revaluations were conducted in state-funded organizations in 2003 and 2007. Similar revaluations were also carried out by some Russian corporations, e.g., OJSC Russian Railways (RZhD) and JSC Gazprom, mainly to justify the growth in prices for their goods and services. A comparison of the estimated and actual book values shows the level of their annual revaluations (column 8). The value of the asset is also affected by the growth in the value of investment goods and services. This growth was taken equal to the deflator index of gross accumulation of capital assets for 1994-2014, which is used in the system of national accounts (column 9) [III]. For 1992 and 1993, the growth in the value of investment was estimated using price indices for capital investment [15, p. 294].
At the next calculation stage, official deflator index for the gross accumulation of capital assets (which shows the growth in prices for investment goods and services and, accordingly, the size of the rise in prices for available fixed assets) was compared with the actual annual growth in the asset value due to revaluations (column 10). If the value of this ratio in the current year is greater than unity, the discrepancy between the replacement and book values increases and if it is less than unity, the discrepancy is reduced.
At the final stage of calculations, taking 2001 as the base year, we calculated the relationship between the replacement and the book value for the entire period (column 11). The calculations were carried out by dividing the ratio of these values for 2001 (8.0 times) by the corresponding discrepancies from column 10 for 1992-2000 and multiplying by the discrepancies from column 10 for 2002-2014.
Due to several asset revaluations carried out in the 1990s, the book values approached the replacement values, although there were still some discrepancies between them. In the following period, as the prices for investment increased and, in the absence of revaluations, there was a consistent lag between the book value of the asset from the replacement value on a national scale. At that time, the gap between the replacement and book values was mainly bridged by the centralized asset revaluations at state-funded organizations conducted in 2003 and 2007.
The ratio between the replacement and book value changed with time as the volumes of asset acquisition and retirement varied unevenly, revaluation was carried out in some sectors of the economy and statefunded organizations, and the growth rates of the prices of investment goods and services were also changing. The annual values of this ratio were specially calculated (Table 2). As can be seen from Table 2, underestimated asset value was typical of the entire postSoviet period. Therein, the post-Soviet economics followed the Soviet traditions as by the end of the Soviet period the economic assets were underestimated at least fourfold [12, p. 23-28].
Depreciation of fixed assets. Official data characterizing the depreciation of fixed assets are unreliable due to their erroneous assessment. If fixed assets are underestimated, the estimate of their depreciation will also be too low. Long-term capital assets are characterized by the greatest discrepancy between their replacement book values, the share of these assets is underestimated when calculating the overall level of asset depreciation.
The depreciation level was determined for two types of assets, i.e., active assets in electric power industry and liabilities in housing. The selection was made because, first, electricity and housing are fairly homogeneous objects in terms of material composition and, second, the quality of statistics for natural indicators (the size of assets and their input) is quite acceptable for alternative calculations.
An alternative calculation of housing depreciation is based on the balance calculation of housing for 1991-2014. Let us assume that the official statistics on the housing stock, as well as the depreciation level of housing for the initial period are reliable. At the end of 1990, the total floor area of the housing stock in the Russian Soviet Federative Soviet Republic was 2425 million square meters, while the level of its depreciation was 15% [16, pp. 225, 321]; i.e., in physical terms, the wear corresponded to 363.8 million square meters. Out of the total floor area, 32.2 million square meters was in substandard or dilapidated state . Accordingly, the total depreciation of the actual housing stock was 331.6 million square meters (363.8- 2.2). The total floor area of the housing stock, excluding substandard and dilapidated housing, by the beginning of 1991 was 2392.8 million square meters (2425-32.2).
The further changes in the housing stock were associated with the commissioning of new housing due to construction and the accumulation of wear throughout the period. The commissioning of new housing in physical measurement units is taken into account by the official statistics. The data on the annual depreciation of the housing stock were taken at the level of standard depreciation rates adopted in March 1974 and effective until October 1990. They regulated the occupancy of residential building, which up to now has comprised the largest share in the Russian housing stock. The standard rates included differentiation by type of buildings. The standard full service life of stone and brick buildings was set at 133 years; for panel buildings, it was 143 years; for wooden houses, it was 50 years; for modular prefab buildings, it was set as 100 years; for buildings of mixed types, it was 50 years; and, for other types, it was set at 20 years. The average rate of depreciation deductions for full replacement was calculated as a weighted average and, for the weights, the structure of buildings was taken that had been established by the middle of the studied period (Table 3).
Based on the available housing stock at the beginning of 1991, known values of the annual housing commissioning and its standard retirement, we determine the accumulated volume of housing stock and its standard retirement at the end of 2014 (Table 4). The depreciation level of the housing stock is formed by three components. The first is the depreciation accumulated in 1991-2014 and equal to 752.1 million square meters (Table 4, total of column 3). The second component is an increase in the housing stock, the service life of which exceeds the standard level. According to the estimates, at the end of 2014, the housing stock of the Russian Federation was to be 2773.8 million square meters. At the same time, according to the official statistics, the size of the housing stock was 3473 million square meters . This implies that the floor area of substandard and dilapidated housing in Russia is 699.2 million square meters [IV]. At the same time, the official statistic service estimates the floor area of substandard and dilapidated housing as 93.3 million square meters, which is almost 7.5. times smaller than our calculation results . Thus, the increase in the life-expired housing stock from 1991 to 2014 was 667 million square meters (699.2-32.2), i.e., the floor area of substandard and dilapidated housing in Russia grew 27.7 times. Finally, the third component is the depreciation accumulated in the housing stock before 1991, and the standard service life of this part of the housing stock has not expired yet. As shown above, in 1991, this depreciation was 331.6 million square meters. We only have to find this value for 2014. At the beginning of 1991, the total housing stock of the country was 2425 million square meters, while in 1991-2014, the housing commissioned totaled 1131.1 million square meters (Table 4, total of column 2).
Consequently, by the end of the period, provided that the existing housing had been preserved, the available housing stock would be 3558.1 million square meters. Let us assume that the asset retirement was solely due to physical deterioration. At the end of the considered period, the housing stock was 3473 million square meters, while at the beginning of the period, it was 2425 million square meters; thus, the commissioned housing over the period was 1133.1 million square meters. Consequently, 85.1 million square meters of housing was liquidated over 1991-2014 (3558.1-3473). This means that Russia preserved 97.5% housing constructed by the time of the disintegration of the Soviet Union. The preservation of this housing by now implies the preservation (and subsequent increase) of its depreciation. In 1991, the depreciation of housing with an unexpired service life was estimated at 331.6 million square meters. If we assume the retirement of only old housing, the service life of which was equal to or exceeded the standard value, we can conclude that, by the end of 2014, the depreciation level of the housing stock accumulated before 1991 was 246.5 million square meters (331.6-85.1).
Thus, at the end of 2014, the depreciation of the housing habitable according to the existing standards consists of the depreciation accumulated before 1991 equal to 246.5 million square meters and depreciation, accumulated over 1991-2014, which totals 752.1 million square meters. In addition, there is 699.2 million square meters of the housing stock whose service life has completely expired, depreciation level exceeds 100% but which still remains in use. In total, the depreciation level of housing in physical terms is 1697.8 million square meters, and thus the depreciation level is 48.9% of the housing stock in use (1697.8/3473 × 100%).
Calculation of average annual depreciation rate of residential buildings in the Russian Federation, 2001, percent of book value.
* According to the material of the walls, “other” includes frames with backfilling, prefabricated panel, framed-reed-fiber, and other light buildings. Source: [17, 18, p. 6].
At the same time, the official statistics estimates the depreciation level of the housing stock as 38.8% . It appears that, from the end of 1991 to the end of 2014, i.e., in 23 years, according to official estimates, depreciation increased by 23.8 pp (38.8-15%). According to the alternative estimate, the depreciation increased by 33.9 pp (48.9-15%), i.e., it exceeds the official estimate by 10.1 pp, which implies the average annual increase in the depreciation of the housing stock on a cumulative total of 0.44 pp (10.1 pp/23 years).
It should be noted that our earlier calculations of the depreciation level performed by the perpetual inventory method based on physical indicators using the active assets of the electric power industry as an example  also demonstrated that the alternative estimates of the depreciation level exceeded the official figures. The assessed accumulated depreciation of the generating facilities over 29 years proved to be higher than the official estimates by 22.1 pp. Thus, the average annual discrepancy between estimates for the period turned out to be equal to 0.76 pp (22.1 pp/29 years). As an integral estimate of the annual discrepancy between the alternative and official depreciation levels, we chose the average value of our calculations equal to 0.60 pp [(0.44 pp + 0.76 pp)/2].
Calculations of housing stock in the Russian Federation and its standard retirement rate, 1991-2014, million square meters.
Source: Data on the commissioning of housing and its availability at the beginning of 1991 are based on data in ; other data are results of the authors' calculations.
In our opinion, calculations carried out in two sectors using the example of both of the active assets and liabilities provide a more adequate picture of the asset depreciation than the official statistics. The obtained results can be used as an alternative estimate of the level of asset depreciation across the entire economy of the Russian Federation for 1991-2015 (Table 5).
Interestingly, Table 5 shows a significant reduction in the official level of asset depreciation in 2004 compared to 2003. This is explained by the specifics of Russian accounting and statistical practice. In 2004, there was a massive transfer of fixed assets of the Ministry of Railways to the newly organized OJSC Russian Railways. The transfer took place without taking into account the previously accumulated depreciation [V]; as a result, the depreciation of assets belonging to transportation organizations declined from 57.8% in 2003 to 20.0% in 2004 [21, p. 342].
Official and alternative estimates of the depreciation level of fixed assets in the Russian Federation, 1991-2015, %.
* Preliminary data. Official data on depreciation level are taken from .
In today’s economic situation, the depreciation level of fixed assets is not a sufficiently informative indicator; it shows not so much the age structure of assets as the trend of the structural change (the rejuvenation or obsolescence of assets). Modern depreciation rates were mostly adopted in March 1974. Changes in 1990 and 2002 relating to the methods for calculating depreciation and the identification of depreciation groups have not altered the fundamentals of depreciation policy. Meanwhile, Soviet standards of depreciation rates were focused on the rapid replacement of funds under the impact of scientific and technological progress. Thus, meaningful modern policy should be oriented to longer service lives of assets and, accordingly, to lower rates of depreciation charges.
In the above-presented example of calculations for the residential sector, it can be seen that in 2014 in Russia the service life of about 700 million square meters, or 20.2% of the total housing stock, exceeded the prescribed level. Our earlier calculations for the electric power industry showed that, in 2001, the specific weight of completely depreciated turbines was 47.2%. At the same time, these fully depreciated assets are still in operation. This is a result of a contradiction between real economic life and the regulatory framework.
The dynamics of fixed assets. Based on the obtained estimates of the level of asset depreciation and relations between the replacement and book values of assets, we calculated the dynamics of the assets over the entire period under consideration (Table 6).
The results of the calculations showed a huge reduction in fixed assets of the Russian economy. With regard to the total replacement value, the drop was 26.8% from the 1990 level. More accurately, the process of change in the assets is reflected in the dynamics of their residual value taking into account not only the availability of assets, but also their depreciation. According to the data of Table 6, the residual asset value shrank by 50.4%, i.e., almost twofold. The performed calculation results show the total dynamics in the fixed assets of the entire economy and do not reflect its sectoral specifics. The largest reduction in assets was observed in the production of goods, while the smallest was observed in the sphere of market services. At the same time, in some branches of the service sector, e.g., in retail trade or public catering, there has been an increase in assets.
Calculation of the dynamics of Russia’s fixed assets, 1992-2015.
* Before 1998, billion rubles.
Comments to Table 6.
Taking into account the rapid growth in the value of fixed assets, the book value of the asset at the beginning of the year in 1992-1994 (column 1) was taken at the level of annual average. Using the earlier calculated relations (column 2), the book value was brought to the replacement level (column 3). In our work  using the example of the Soviet and American economies we justified the annual level of depreciation charges, the value of which (with allowance for functional depreciation) was equal to 2.8% of the total replacement value of the asset. Taking this estimate into account, we determined the annual values of accumulated depreciation (column 4). The volume of the annual investment was assumed to be equal to the official values (column 5). If the annual level of depreciation is higher than the current investment values, then there is a reduction in the asset value. The reduction in the asset value was calculated in the prices effective in a given period of time (column 6). The relative annual asset reduction was first assessed proceeding from the total replacement value of the assets, for which the absolute value of the asset reduction correlated to the asset value at the beginning of the year (column 7). Based on the asset depreciation level (column 8) and calculated total replacement value (column 3), we determined the residual asset value of the economy (column 9). In order to calculate the relative change in the residual value, allowance was made for the relations between the annual volume of the asset reduction and the residual value of the assets (column 10). At the final stage of calculations, the total relative values of reduction in the total and residual asset value over the entire period were estimated (the total values of columns 7 and 10).
It is necessary to consider the validity of calculations and reliability of the initial data. The main factors that affect the reliability of the final result for fixed assets dynamics are as follows. The first is the validity of the ratio of bringing the book value to the replacement value for 2001, taken equal to 8.0. Actually, the value of this coefficient may be different and, quite possibly, smaller. Accordingly, with a reduction in the gap between the replacement and book values, the decrease in the value of capital assets can be less pronounced.
The second factor is the overestimated level of annual depreciation (2.8%) in the calculations, which was adopted at the level of the late Soviet period and which is very close to the modern American level. Depreciation charges include the cost of replacement for both physical and functional depreciation, the magnitude of which in the post-war Soviet economy, according to S.G. Strumilin, was about 30% [22, p. 275]. Obviously, the lack of investment funds and retarded implementation of scientific and technological progress in the economy decrease the effective depreciation rates and almost fail to include the functional depreciation of assets.
The third factor is incompletely accounting for investment in the economy. The calculation of the dynamics of capital asset used the official statistical data. Meanwhile, Rosstat does not account for the significant amount of investment that is generated in high-yield shadow sectors of the economy, such as residential building, trade, public catering, and service rendering. Thus, our calculations of investment in retail trade showed that, in 2001, their actual volume exceeded the official values by 13 times . A more comprehensive accounting for investment in the Russian economy will adjust the volume of capital assets in its dynamics, making it lower.
Finally, the fourth factor that influence the validity of the calculations is ignoring structural economic transformations in the 1990s. During this period, under the conditions of the openness of the Russian economy and its integration into the world market, the assets mainly retired due to the noncompetitiveness of production works. Accounting for the loss of assets of this kind will supply information to the statistics about asset dynamics and will make it possible to adjust the available estimates of the drop in the assets towards their increase.
It is difficult to assess quantitatively the impact of all the above-listed factors on the dynamics of capital assets. They are multidirectional and affect both the reduction and the increase in the shrinking rates. Nevertheless, we deem it unlikely that the additional consideration of factors will fundamentally change the nature of the computations performed. However, in all likelihood, this accounting will still show a smaller drop in the value of capital assets in the post-Soviet period.
Official and alternative assessments of dynamics.
The obtained results drastically differ from the official data of Rosstat, both with respect to the dynamics of capital assets and their reproduction and current state (Table 7). The alternative valuation of capital costs characterizes the full replacement value. According to the calculations in Table 2, in 2015, its difference from the book value presented by Rosstat was 7.97 times. There are also significant differences in the level of capital depreciation presented by official data and obtained by alternative estimates.
The index of the physical volume of capital assets is given according to the alternative estimate in two indicators, i.e., at full cost and using the residual value. As for the official data, Rosstat calculates annual chain indices at full cost [VI]. This calculation is carried out in the framework of procedure based on the compilation of a balance of fixed assets in comparable prices. It takes into account the value of assets acquired and retired, based on their age structure and deflator indexes of the corresponding years [24, pp. 70-74]. Rosstat does not calculate the physical volume indicator for fixed assets at the residual value although the world’s conventional statistical practice assessing the dynamics of fixed assets at the residual value is much more consistent with the economic meaning of the index of physical dynamics of assets. Table 7 presents the calculation of fixed assets for 2015 based on a comparison of the investment volumes and accrued depreciation.
Official and alternative estimates of the dynamics and reproduction of capital assets in the Russian Federation, 2015.
* Authors’ calculations based on .
The main difference between Rosstat’s indicators and alternative estimates is that, while the former shows growth in the asset value, the latter demonstrates its major reduction. The material losses incurred in Russia’s economy in 1991-2015 are comparable to the Soviet Union’s losses during WWII [VII]. Apparently, the asset reduction at the residual value in the post-Soviet period was significantly larger than during the war due to greater wear accumulation. From the viewpoint of the loss of material wealth, the post-Soviet period can be considered to be a major economic catastrophe.
According to Table 7, only a simple reproduction of capital assets in 2015 would require additional investment of 18.1 trillion rubles. On the other hand, the extended (e.g., 3%) growth in the residual (net) capital would require the increase in this amount by 12.5 trillion rubles (1167.6 trillion rubles × 0.356 × 0.03), i.e., the supplementary amount of about 30.6 trillion rubles (about 3.1-fold increase in the current investment in fixed assets). Officially, the Russian GDP in 2015 was assessed as 80.8 trillion rubles . Thus, the amount of additional financial needs is about 37.9% of the current official Russian GDP.
At the end of 2015, the residual value of assets in the economy of the Russian Federation was 415.6 trillion rubles, which corresponds to 49.6% of their value in the same prices in 1991. This implies that over the years of reforms, Russia’s economy has lost assets, the value of which is equal to 422.4 trillion rubles. In other words, in 1991-2015, the losses of fixed assets are 5.2 times higher than the annual GDP in 2015.
The above-mentioned figure covers by no means all investment needs of the Russian economy. In addition to the increase in fixed capital investment, it is necessary to make investment in working capital (about 6% of the fixed capital investment) and, most importantly, in human capital. If Russia brings the savings rate to 50% of the GDP; then, the country will need at least 10 years to restore the material and human capital that has been wasted over the last 25 years.
Turning to the data on the final distribution of GDP, according to official Russian statistics, in recent years, the share of the gross accumulation of capital assets in the GDP structure has ranged from 17.7% to 22.0%. However, according to Eurostat, it was significantly lower, i.e., in the range from 9.4 to 13.9%. This is one of the lowest indicators not only among former socialist countries, but also among all countries worldwide. Only Ukrainian indicators seem to be close to Russia’s . A low share of accumulation has determined a high share of final consumption in the postSoviet period, mainly household consumption.
The question arises of why, despite such a huge reduction in fixed assets, the collapse of the Russian economy has not yet occurred, although the volume of GDP in 2015, according to our estimates, decreased by 10.2% compared to 1991 . In addition to the wellknown role of anomalously high world oil prices in the 2000s and early 2010s, we should turn our attention to several other circumstances. In the Soviet Union, fixed assets were used extremely inefficiently, but the transition to a market economy led to a marked stimulated increase in the degree of their utilization and efficiency of use. In the post-Soviet period, there was a huge restructuring of the economy in favor of market services that are not capital-intensive. Many fixed assets of the Soviet period, e.g., in the defense industry, were superfluous because of excessive Soviet military spending and the difficulties of conversion. The drop in the asset volume was also largely compensated for by the attraction of foreign labor.
The performed calculations allow one to understand the current state of the Russian economy and determine its prospects. As the material and human resources inherited by Russia from Soviet times are gradually exhausted, the economy will be drawn more and more deeply into the crisis, and it will only be possible to recover through structural macroeconomic readjustment. This restructuring is associated with an increase in the share of investment and growing spending on education, health, science, and culture .
[I] In the opinion of the editorial board, the hypotheses adopted by the authors in calculating the dynamics of fixed capital are not sufficiently substantiated and are of a debatable nature (editorial note).
[II] Information on the reported value of assets and the renewal and retirement rates was taken from .
[III] The annual values of GDP deflator indices for 1994-2014 are taken from .
[IV] In , the footage of substandard and dilapidated housing is calculated in detail and the irreliability of its official statistics is proved and explained.
[V] Statistical accounting and recording property transfers affected the assessment of the level of asset depreciation in the entire economy of the Russian Federation. According to statistical comments, writing off depreciation complied with the accounting procedure. This observation absolves the statistical service of the responsibility for published wear and tear indicators, but fails to make these indicators reliable.
[VI] The consolidated index of the physical volume of fixed assets is calculated based on the data from .
[VII] During the war years, the full-cost value of property (without taking into account property losses incurred by the population) decreased by 33.5% [25, p. 129].References
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Translated by I. Pertsovskaya
Текст статьи приводится по изданию: Fomin D.A., Khanin G.I. The dynamics of capital assets in the economy of the Russian Federation over the post-Soviet period (1992-2015) // Studies on Russian Economic Development. 2017. Vol. 28. No. 4. P. 373-383. DOI: 10.1134/S1075700717040062