Publication: Monitor Volume: 3 Issue: 164

According to data on industrial production during the first seven months of 1997, released recently by the CIS Interstate Statistical Committee, Kyrgyzstan reported a whopping 37.8 percent increase in industrial output compared to the same period in 1996. Belarus reported a controversial 14.6 percent increase for this period; Georgia recorded 11 percent growth in industrial production; while Kazakstan, Russia, and Azerbaijan reported increases in industrial output of 3.1, 1.2, and 0.6 percent, respectively. On the other hand, industrial production in Armenia, Ukraine, Moldova, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan declined by 2.9, 3.8, 9.5, 11.2, and 35.2 percent, respectively. (Russian agencies, August 28)

When complemented by (less reliable) data on GDP growth, some interesting patterns emerge from these figures. Kyrgyzstan’s rapid growth carries over to the 14 percent increase in GDP recorded for the January-July period, while, according to TACIS’s Georgian Economic Trends, Georgia has recorded similar GDP growth during the first half of the year. Belarus’s reported 11 percent GDP growth is consistent with its claims of booming industrial production, while Kazakstan’s moderate 1.6 percent GDP growth rate is consistent with the recorded 3.1 percent increase in industrial production. Likewise, the declines in Russian (0.2 percent) and Ukrainian (6.9 percent) GDP are also in line with these countries’ reported industrial production figures. However, Tajikistan’s 5.5 percent GDP growth is difficult to reconcile with the 11.2 percent decline in industrial production reported for the first seven months — not to mention the near constant state of warfare in that country. Also puzzling is the fact that Azerbaijan is reporting lower growth in industrial production (0.6 percent) than GDP (5.7 percent), insofar as Azerbaijan’s economic recovery, by all accounts, is following the beginning of Baku’s long-awaited oil boom.

Perhaps the most interesting questions raised by these figures are: (1) whether Kyrgyzstan’s boom is sustainable; (2) whether the Belarusan numbers are credible (see item below); and (3) how the economy of Turkmenistan — often described as the "Kuwait of natural gas" — could experience such an economic collapse. While many specialists would quickly arrive at the same, negative answer to the first two questions, the answer to the third is probably more complicated.

The IMF Doesn’t Buy Minsk’s Economic Numbers.