By Atom Markarian
Every single country in CIS is unique in its economic transformation. However, there are also more common characteristics that in some instances unite them. The compatibility of the social fabric makes it possible to compare successes and achievements in the social sphere and in particular to compare the incomes of CIS countries. According to the official data released by the Committee of Interstate Statistics of CIS countries, for the 9 months of 2001, the nominal average salary in Armenia rose by 8 percent, in Belarus by 32 percent in Azerbaijan by 24 percent. The nominal average salary in Russia and Ukraine rose by 20 percent in Moldova by 17 percent. Average salary in Central Asian republics of Kyrgyzstan was 15 percent higher compared to the same period of last year. Tajikistan, which is considered to be the poorest country in the CIS, had only 5 percent rise for the nine months of 2001.
It is difficult to get a factual sense of the real living standards in the former Soviet republics based only on official statistics of incomes. Changes in consumer prices could provide a far clearer picture of the dynamics of purchasing power in post-Soviet economies. According to the CIS official statistics, prices in Belarus rose sharply for the nine months of 2001. The consumer price index in this Moscow-centric republic has jumped by some 44 percent. Other CIS countries had also experienced double-digit price increase. This offsets the large increase in salaries.
The Armenian economy has exceeded expectations by posting a surprisingly stable pricing environment. The prices of consumer goods for the 9 months of this year have risen only by 8 percent in Armenia. The dynamic of consumer prices and nominal salaries shows that real income in Armenia was very stable compared to the other republics where prices have increased faster than salaries.
On the other hand Armenia's average monthly income is $40, which is almost two times less than the average monthly salary in Russia. The average monthly salary in Azerbaijan is $55. Workers in Ukraine earn $43 a month. Georgians earn $33, Moldavians $32. The average monthly salary in Kyrgyzstan is only $23.
Armenian workers in the private sector earn more income than those in the public sector. According to the World Bank economists, owners of the private businesses are trying to hide the real earnings of their workers from state authorities. The World Bank observations show that only 25 percent of incomes earned in the private sector are being registered with tax authorities. Private sector workers get the other 75 percent of their salaries in cash. Independent studies conducted by the experts of international financial institutions show that the income of the private sector workers is tree times higher compared with the public sector. The monthly salary in Armenia's public sector is less than $20, which does not meet even basic needs. Next year the Armenian government plans to increase salaries of teachers and professors by 20 percent. Government employees will get a pay raise only after agencies and ministries are downsized and more funds become available for higher salaries.