Russia's neighbors feel pain of slowdown

Tue Jan 13, 2009 9:28pm EST
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By Christian Lowe

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Until the financial crisis hit, Shahin Kerimov sent money home from his job in Russia to his family in Azerbaijan. Now his wages have stopped, they have to wire him cash to buy food.

Kerimov worked a tough, dirty job building apartment blocks in Moscow so he could make a better life for his wife and children. His employer promises to pay him what he is owed soon.

"I have two small children. They are waiting so I can earn some kind of money and bring it home," he said in the bare-walled apartment where he and his workmates are squatting. "The last time we were paid any money was two months ago."

His experience illustrates how the pain of the global slowdown has spread beyond the world's economic powerhouses into developing countries that are far removed from the financial markets and hedge funds where the crisis first emerged.

Kerimov is one of an estimated 10 million migrants from ex-Soviet republics working in Russia.

The cash they send to their families is a lifeline for the economies of their home countries, in some cases accounting for nearly half of gross domestic product (GDP).

So when workers are laid off from construction sites or factories in Moscow, the economic effects are felt thousands of kilometers away in households in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and elsewhere.

MAKESHIFT BEDS   Continued...

<p>Shahin Kerimov of Azerbaijan sits in a bare-walled apartment in Moscow November 17, 2008. REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin</p>