Participants at the EPAC G4G anniversary event in September 2016.
Photo courtesy of the G4G facebook page.
The 2008 Rose Revolution, which marked Georgia’s turn down a more democratic, market-based and Western-oriented path, kicked off a process of robust reforms and aggressive moves headed by then-President Mikheil Saakashvili to tackle the endemic corruption that had long hampered the country’s economic development. The turn was affirmed in 2014 when Georgia signed the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement (DCFTA) and Association Agreement with the European Union (EU), signaling a commitment to enact further reforms and open its markets to Europe – a step that Georgians envision as eventually leading to EU membership.
However, despite the strong anti-corruption measures enacted after 2008, concerns about the rule of law and quality of governance also arose during that period. While there was not necessarily a threat of reforms being derailed, there were legitimate questions as to how representative the process was under the then-ruling government. Those trends led (in part) to the defeat of Saakashvili’s party in parliamentary elections in 2012, followed by the defeat of the presidential candidate from his party the following year. The business community had generally been in favor of many of the changes enacted under Saakashvili—though small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) did not always have a seat at the table.. With the change in government came some concerns that the economic reform trajectory could be reversed.
Podcast guest Andras Loke
This week on the Democracy that Delivers podcast, President of Transparency International Hungary, András Lőke, discusses the state of democracy in Hungary and the hard work it takes to maintain that system over time. He also discusses the cultural differences between countries in Central Europe and how culture can influence democratic development. Lőke is also founder and editor-in-chief of www.Ittlakunk.hu, a group of websites covering 23 Budapest neighborhoods that receives 800,000 unique visitors a month. He speaks about the government’s influence on the media. Lőke also talks about how corruption undermines democracy and the “economy within the economy” that institutionalizes corruption in Hungary.
Lőke recently spoke at the conference The Illiberal Turn?: Reasserting Democratic Values in Central and Eastern Europe. The conference was co-hosted by CIPE with the Atlantic Council, the International Republican Institute, the National Democratic Institute, and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. You can conference presentations and panel discussions on the Atlantic Council website.
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Podcast guests Carmen Stanila (far left) and Camelia Bulat (second right) with hosts Ken Jaques and Julie Johnson
In this week’s Democracy That Delivers podcast, CIPE consultants Camelia Bulat and Carmen Stanila talk about working with the private sector and business associations on public policy development and advocacy. They discuss their early work in Romania and later in the Balkans, Moldova, and the Caucuses, and the challenges of managing citizen expectations when countries transition to democratic, free market systems. Bulat and Stanila also talk about how they were able to transfer early lessons learned in Romania to projects elsewhere, and the surprising similarity between the issues and priorities facing business associations all over the world.
Francis Fukuyama giving a lecture about case study methodology at the Leadership Academy for Development in Ukraine.
Ukraine is a resource rich country, an entrepreneurial country, a country filled with talented individuals who work hard for their families, but why do so many Ukrainian people live in poverty? The answer, perhaps, is public governance, or more precisely, a lack thereof.
To be clear, allow us first to define the words “public governance,” as we understand them. Simply put, public governance is the relationship of power among the government, civil society, and the market. Given the strong skepticism concerning democracy in nations near Ukraine, without improvement in the standard of living of Ukrainians, the Ukrainian people may soon lose their excitement about their own bustling and fledgling democracy. In short, Ukraine’s democracy must begin to deliver tangible benefits to its citizens.
In Ukraine, thousands of companies are still owned and operated by the government — a legacy of Soviet central planning that bleeds money from the already strained state budget. With the country in economic crisis, there have been renewed calls for Ukraine to speed up its privatization process and sell these firms to private owners who can restructure them and run them more efficiently.
Ukraine’s former Minister of Economic Development and Trade, Aivara Abromavicius, recently made a well-reasoned argument for faster privatization on the Atlantic Council’s blog. Similarly, the IMF has also urged Ukraine to speed up the pace of privatization.
However, focusing on the pace rather than the quality of privatization will likely result in a botched privatization process — which will undermine the little bit of faith Ukrainians have left in the free market and state institutions, potentially leading to the growth of populist movements and destabilizing the current government.
Ukrainian state-owned enterprises (SOEs) remain a drag on the national budget. They serve as incubators for corruption and gray market deals and in some cases serve as piggy banks for Ukrainian politicians. While I agree with Abromavicius that “simplicity, clarity, and transparency,” must be maintained in order to successfully privatize Ukrainian state owned enterprises, his concept of creating a simplified privatization procedure (without advisers) through an online auction of over 1,000 smaller SOEs will likely lead to public anger over a process that would surely enrich insiders.
Without independent advisors overseeing the due diligence process and hiring independent auditors, bidders will not have transparent access to information about the companies listed. This would, in effect, be like buying from an unrated seller on eBay with only a vague description of what is for sale – something that would not inspire confidence in potential buyers.
A lack of independent advisors–and the transparency and investor assurances they would bring to an auction—can lead to lower realized prices for the Ukrainian government, attracting only those bidders with inside knowledge of the true status of the enterprises for sale.
“There is one thing the photograph must contain, the humanity of the moment.” – Robert Frank
Do you like to tell stories through photography? Then show us your best work! The first annual Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE) Photo Competition is now open for submissions.
Open to participants of all ages, including student, amateur, and professional photographers, the inaugural photo competition will focus on the theme of Entrepreneurship.
CIPE’s long term partner Riinvest Institute for Development Research is celebrating their 20th anniversary this year. To mark the occasion, Riinvest held a conference on May 15 and 16 titled, “Activating the Sources of Economic Growth in Kosovo”. The conference brought together an impressive audience— the President and the Prime Minister of Kosovo*, the Deputy Minister of Finance, the World Bank Country Manager, other high level public officials, academics, business people, NGO leaders, the donor community, and members of the media.
*Kosovo’s newly-elected Prime Minister, Isa Mustafa, is the former President of Riinvest.
Riinvest leaders presented awards to a number of partners, individuals, and organizations who have supported the organization since its inception. CIPE had the honor of being presented the first two awards, one for Executive Director John Sullivan and one for the organization as a whole. CIPE Senior Consultant Carmen Stanila kindly received both awards on behalf of John and the organization.