Consumer Goods in The Soviet Union - The Processes and Goals of Consumer Production

The Processes and Goals of Consumer Production

Increased availability of consumer goods was an important goal of perestroika. A premise of that program was that workers would raise their productivity in response to incentive wages only if their money could buy a greater variety of consumer products. This idea arose when the early use of incentive wages did not have the anticipated effect on labor productivity because purchasing power had not improved. According to the theory, all Soviet industry would benefit from diversification from Group A into Group B because incentives would have real meaning. Therefore, the Twelfth Five-Year Plan called for a 5.4% rise in nonfood consumer goods and a 5.4 to 7% rise in consumer services. Both figures were well above rates in the overall economic plan.

Consumer goods targeted included radios, televisions, sewing machines, washing machines, refrigerators, paper, and knitwear. The highest quotas were set for the first three categories. Although in 1987 refrigerators, washing machines, televisions, tape recorders, and furniture were the consumer categories making the greatest production gains compared with the previous year, only furniture met its yearly quota. Furthermore, industrial planners had tried to use light industries to raise the industrial contributions of such economic regions as the Transcaucasus and Central Asia, which had large populations but lacked the raw materials for heavy manufacturing.

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