Soviet Union Table of Contents
Soviet industry is usually divided into two major categories. Group A is "heavy industry," which includes all those branches already discussed. Group B is "consumer goods," including foods, clothing and shoes, housing, and such heavy-industry products as appliances and fuels that are used by individual consumers. From the early days of the Stalin era, Group A received top priority in economic planning and allocation. Only in 1987 was the foundation laid for a separate industrial complex for consumer industry, named the "social complex." Initially, it lacked the extensive bureaucratic structure of the other six complexes, and it contained only the Ministry of Light Industry.
In 1986 shortages continued in basic consumer items, even in major population centers. Such goods occasionally were rationed in major cities well into the 1980s. Besides the built-in shortages caused by planning priorities, shoddy production of consumer goods limited actual supply. According to Soviet economists, only 10 percent of Soviet finished goods could compete with their Western equivalents, and the average consumer faced long waiting periods to buy major appliances or furniture. During the 1980s, the wide availability of consumer electronics products in the West demonstrated a new phase of the Soviet Union's inability to compete, especially because Soviet consumers were becoming more aware of what they were missing. In the mid-1980s, up to 70 percent of the televisions manufactured by Ekran, a major household electronics manufacturers, were rejected by quality control inspection. The television industry received special attention, and a strong drive for quality control was a response to published figures of very high rates of breakdown and repair. To improve the industry, a major cooperative color television venture was planned for the Warsaw Television Plant in 1989.
Data as of May 1989