Staunton, August 23 – On the 30th anniversary of the collapse of the USSR, many are asking who gained the most from its end? There are many ways to answer that question. But one of the easiest comparisons is to GDP growth per capita on a purchasing power basis. If one does that, economic journalist Mikhail Sergeyev says, there are some surprising results.
If one does that, he writes in Nezavisimaya gazeta, it turns out that “the maximum growth of GDP per capita occurred not in the Baltic countries but in Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan” in part because the latter started from a far lower base (ng.ru/economics/2021-08-23/1_8232_economics1.html).
Since 1991, this measure has increased 3, 3.4 and 3.6 times in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, Sergeyev says, while in Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan, it has gone up 25, 21 and 16 times, the latter three having some of the lowest incomes at the end of Soviet times and having much of their economies in the shadow sector and not then counted.
At the other end of the scale, the journalist who specializes in economic questions says, are Russia, Kyrgyzstan and Ukraine. The increase in wealth per capita in these three “has turned out to be even lower than for example in Moldova.” Russia media aren’t inclined to mention this, but their Ukrainian counterparts don’t make “a big secret” of this.
As analysts like Petr Pushkarev of the TeleTrade Center point out, this is not a perfect measure of wealth. Instead, it should be compared to changes in the cost of living people have experienced. Otherwise, he says, the rankings are artificial, the product of statistical manipulation rather than a good measure of increased wellbeing.
And one needs to take into consideration how much of the actual as opposed to the officially registered economy is actually measured. In the Baltic countries, that was always higher than in the Caucasus ones; and so the increases in the former have been less than in the latter were ever more of the shadow economy has been registered since the end of Soviet times.