11 Aug

Poverty in Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia

To me, this is the most telling analysis of all. (In my series of economic wellbeing in the Caucasus, analysis of Caucasus Barometer data.)

About a quarter to a third of Armenians, Azerbaijanis, and Georgians say that they do not have enough money for food.

Further, another third (give or take), although they can buy food, do not have enough money for clothes.

Less than 10% of everyone in the Caucasus has enough money to buy an expensive item. In Armenia and Georgia only 1% can afford whatever they want (Azerbaijan, not surprisingly, is a bit higher).

Additionally, in the 3 years that this covered, there hasn’t been a great deal of movement.

It appears that some Azerbaijanis became poorer in 2009 and 2010, compared to 2008. (Global economic crisis?) And Georgia had a 2009 downturn (global economic crisis and the Russian-Georgian war?).

Although food prices and other consumables are rising, it doesn’t look like Armenians, Azerbaijanis, or Georgians are able to manage this well.

(If you’re interested in any breakdown of these numbers – rural/urban/capital, gender, age, education, please let me know – I’m happy to do so.)


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11 Aug

Debt and Savings in the Caucasus

Following on the consumption theme, it appears that about half of all Armenians, Azerbaijanis, and Georgians have debt. And few Armenians and Georgians have any savings (Azerbaijanis are slightly more likely to have savings).

While this isn’t the most mind blowing analysis, it is interesting to get some insight on how people are managing their money (or not).

10 Aug

What do Armenians, Azerbaijanis, and Georgians own?

More on the topic of consumption… now on to durable goods and ownership in Armenian, Azerbaijani, and Georgian households.

TVs and DVD players: Everyone, more or less, in Armenia and Azerbaijan has a TV. Interestingly, less than two-thirds of Georgians in 2007 had a TV — is this a refugee issue? An electricity issue? (Electricity access in Georgia was much worse (in recent years) than in Armenia or Azerbaijan.) Maybe Georgians have other things to do rather than sit around watching the tube! But it looks like Georgians are quickly catching up to their neighbors, with 83% of households now owning a set.
And the number of households with a DVD player has increased over the years in all countries. Georgia still has a much lower penetration of DVD players though and Armenia is notably higher than both Azerbaijan and Georgia. Do Armenians like movies more than their neighbors do? Maybe the pirated DVD business in Armenia is better than in the other two?

Appliances: It must be hot in Azerbaijan! About a quarter of Azerbaijanis have air conditioning. Very few Armenians or Georgians do. Is it hotter there? Maybe. My guess is that there are more newer homes in Azerbaijan and those newer homes were built with air conditioning systems.

Nearly everyone in Azerbaijan also owns a refrigerator. Three-quarters of Armenians do. This was a big surprising to me. Where do the other quarter keep their perishable food? And most surprising of all is that only 60% of Georgians have a refrigerator. Where do 40% of Georgians keep their food? My guess is at a neighbor or family member’s house. This particular item was really telling to me. While washing machines and air conditioners are luxury items, having refrigerator is pretty essential. (This may also be due to the electricity problems that Georgia faced for a long time.)

I did a quick search and it looks like the biggest concern about households without a refrigerator is the potential for food to go bad and have ill health effects. Also, owning a refrigerator allows a family to buy grocery items on sale, keep them fresh for later use, and reduce number of trips to the store. I intend to do a deeper search in the future on this topic. I’d also like to see who are the refrigerator haves and have-nots in Georgia and Armenia.

And finally, washing machines. Hans Rosling argues that the washing machine has been revolutionary because it frees up time for other activities.

It looks like Armenians and Azerbaijanis are more likely to have an automatic washing machine as well.

Cars: About a quarter of Armenians, Azerbaijanis, and Georgians own cars. Boring. (I can go into greater depth on this if anyone is interested… who owns them – male/female, wealthy?)

Information and Communication Technologies: This is my pet topic and my main research interest and I’ve written about it a lot all over this blog. However, I wanted to include this information here as well.

There is a great deal of mobile phone ownership in all 3 countries and it has grown rapidly since 2007. Georgians are a little behind their neighbors in terms of phone ownership, but not by much. Azerbaijan seems to be stalling out a bit on mobile phone adoption. I’m not sure why though. I’ll need to do an analysis of who the non-adopters are to make any guesses.

Personal computers, however, really vary. I’ve written elsewhere about the huge jump that Armenia has made in PC adoption. But all-in-all, there is some growth in Georgia as well. Azerbaijan seems to be stuck in the low teens. I have some thoughts on this. First, the Azerbaijani government isn’t all that keen on encouraging its citizens to use technology. Secondly, the Internet access throughout the country is much better in Armenia and Georgia. Thus, if the ability to get online is a primary determinant of purchasing a PC, it makes sense that Azerbaijan would be a bit behind.

10 Aug

Access to sanitation in the Caucasus

Sanitation — not the most interesting of topics, but nonetheless telling.

Anyone that has visited the Caucasus can tell you that trash is problematic. And anyone that has travelled outside of the capital cities can discuss outhouses / outdoor toliet facilities.

Taking into consideration that Armenia is the most urban of the three countries, it is not surprising that it also has the highest levle of trash removal and public sewage.

I’m not sure what happened in Azerbaijan in 2009. That’s a pretty big drop. There have been some subtle changes in the way that the Caucasus Barometer collects data that may have influences this.

09 Aug

Utilities in the Caucasus – water, electricity, and gas

This begins a series of blogs looking at comparative economic wellbeing in the Caucasus. My primary questions are: who is doing well? Is wealth changing over time? and What are the differences/similarities between Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia. (This is Caucasus Barometer 2007-2010).

The first topic is utilities. Some scholars argue that access to utilities is one of the best ways to assess poverty. However, in the Soviet period, utility infrastructure was decently strong (compared to say, India). Nonetheless, the comparisons between the three countries can be insightful.

I fully acknowledge than an additional layer of rural/urban/capital should be included here. That’ll be a future post.

Nearly everyone in Armenia has access to pipeline water. Only about two-thirds to three-quarters of Azerbaijanis do. And about two-thirds of Georgians do.

Less than half of Armenians have water 24/7 though. Many more have water for only parts of the day. In Azerbaijan, water varies more. And in Georgia, about a third have 24/7 water.

Nearly everyone in the Caucasus has electricity in their home. However, Azerbaijanis do not often have 24/7 electricity. Only about two-thirds in later years report having electricity all day. In Armenia and Georgia, however, electricity does not seem to be an issue.

A reflection of poverty however, is in the percent of Armenians, Azerbaijanis, and Georgians who had their electricity turned off because they could pay the bill. In 2008 (the peak of the global financial crisis), almost 20% of Azerbaijanis and Georgians couldn’t pay their electric bill.

Gas varies by region. In some places, electric or wood heat may be more common. However, most post-Soviet homes use gas for stoves (although temporary tanks are not uncommon). About two-thirds to three-quarters of Armenians and Azerbaijanis have gas in their home, while less than half of Georgians do.

Only Armenians have daily gas supply regularly. In Azerbaijan and Georgia, less than half do.

Gas is another proxy for poverty, with some Caucasus households having had their gas shut off because of non-payment of a bill.