The Southern district is an amalgamation of very different regional economies. The southern part of this district includes the impoverished North Caucasus, where mountainous terrain, subsistence agriculture, very large informal sectors, stark poverty and the effects of “antiterrorist operations” in Chechnya dominate the economic picture. The average monthly wage in Dagestan in November 2000 was only US$34, less than half the national average of US$89. Seventy-one percent of this figure was required to purchase Goskomstat’s standard consumption basket, compared to a national average of 30 percent. The unemployment rate in Ingushetia, which is flooded with Chechen refugees, at mid-year was 26 percent, three times the national average. The economic growth reported in this part of the district seems to have resulted from the population growth recorded in Dagestan, Ingushetia and North Ossetia (much of which was due to out-migration from Chechnya), and from increased transfers from Moscow. Still, these data indicate that living standards may well have improved during 1999-2000 for those residents of the North Caucasus who are not trapped in refugee camps in Ingushetia and North Ossetia.
The northern part of this district consists of the relatively industrial regions of Volgograd and Astrakhan (which are important oil refining and transport points), as well as the agro- and light industrial regions of Krasnodar, Stavropol and Rostov. These northern regions accounted for 90 percent of the district’s industrial output in 2000, and 85 percent of its retail sales. Growth in these regions reflected Russia’s broad economic recovery and the effects of a good harvest. Synthetic fiber output was reported up 64 percent last year, while the production of specialized tractor equipment grew 86 percent. And the 9 percent growth in agricultural output reported in the Southern district last year was nearly double the 5 percent growth reported for Russia as a whole. The grain harvest in 2000 was especially good in Volgograd, Astrakhan and Kalmykia.
THE FAR EAST: RUSSIA’S UNFOLDING ECONOMIC DISASTER?