Buoyed by a bumper grain crop and slightly higher industrial output than expected this year, the Soviet Union today announced 1979 national economic goals showing continued modest recovery from the 1977 harvest setback.
Nation income, a Soviet term roughly equivalent to gross national product, rose 5 percent this year, outstripping overall economic goals by about 1 percent, according to figures announced at today's meeting of the supreme Soviet, or parliament, and the reshuffled Politburo.
The Soviet Union's economy was targeted to expand by an additional 4.3 percent next year, continuing the reduced economic growth rate that has marked the Soviet economy this decade.
Amid the welter of financial figures and exhortations to the party faithful to fulfill and go beyond the coming year's goals, Western attention focused on Konstantin Chernenko, 67, the protege of Soviet President Leonid Brezhnev who was promoted to the Politburo Monday in the first leadership change since the ouster of Nikolai Podgorny as president 18 months ago. Many Kremlin analysts say Chernenko is a strong possibility to succeed Brezhnev, who will be 72 next month, as Soviet leader.
A stocky, silver-haired man, Chernenko sat in the front row of leaders, four seats from Brezhnev. Chernenko twiced walked over to confer animatedly with his boss, whom he has served as confidant and executive for nearly three decades.
Missing from the leadership ranks today was Kiril Mazurov, first deputy prime minister, who was dropped Monday from the Politburo, leaving its membership at 13.
As outlined by Nikolai Baibakov, chief of Gosplan, the state planning commission, the Soviet Union's 1978 industrial and agricultural production outstripped the modestly higher goals set last year, when the nation was faced with a 17 million ton harvest shortfall. That harvest dropped the economic growth rate to 3.5 percent, the lowest recorded since 1951.
This year's record grain harvest of 235 million tons, coupled with better than expected industrial output, pulled overall economic growth to the 5 percent level, based on incomplete figures. The national income totaled 398 billion rubles (about $540 billion) last year.
Heavy industry production for 1978 increased 5.3 percent, one-half percent above the target, while the production of consumer goods was up 4 percent.
Consumer products have had a lower priority and importance to planners than heavy industry, despite Brezhnev's repeated expression of dissatisfaction with both the quality and quantity of goods in the shops.
Based on this somewhat improved performance, Baibakov said the economic planners have set overall industrial growth in 1979 at 5.7 percent, with heavy industry producing 5.8 percent more and consumer industries, 5.4 percent.
Although they are slightly higher, the new goals reflect the continued lag from year to year in fulfilling the general goals of the current five-year plan, heading into its fourth year.
That plan, adopted in 1976 as an ambitious blueprint to close the economic gap between the Soviet Union and the United States, called for annual national income growth above 4 percent.
The Soviet work force failed to meet the modest 3.8 percent productivity increase called for this year, achieving instead an increase of just 3.6 percent.
The 1979 plan calls for a jump to 4.7 percent in worker productivity, a goal the Kremlin will be hard pressed to achieve.