09 Aug

Utilities in the Caucasus – water, electricity, and gas

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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.