Category Archives: Eurasia

Democracy that Delivers Podcast #39: András Lőke on the State of Democracy in Hungary

andras-loke

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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Democracy that Delivers Podcast #37: Andrea Franzoso on Exposing Corruption in one of Italy’s top Transportation Companies

Podcast guest Andrea Fransozo

Podcast guest Andrea Fransozo

On the Democracy that Delivers podcast this week, Italian whistleblower Andrea Franzoso talks about the difficult decision he made to expose corruption in his company and the impact this had on his personal and professional life. Franzoso discusses how he came across evidence of wrongdoing by the company’s president, the reaction to his revelations internally, and his eventual decision to take his findings to the police. His story is both inspiring and troubling as he shares the professional and personal cost of his decision. The conversation also covers what companies and governments can do to better protect whistleblowers and encourage a culture of accountability and transparency.

Like what you heard? Listen to previous podcasts at: http://www.cipe.org/podcast

Democracy that Delivers Podcast #33: Camelia Bulat and Carmen Stanila on Helping Business Associations Around the World with Policymaking and Advocacy

Podcast guests Carmen Stanila (far left) and Camelia Bulat (second right) with hosts Ken Jaques and Julie Johnson

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.

Donbas Entrepreneurs Reopening and Expanding Businesses in Ukraine

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By Anastasiya Baklan

The war in Ukraine has been especially difficult for small businesses in the conflict-affected regions, despite a ceasefire agreed to in February 2015. According to the data of the State Statistics Service of Ukraine, communities in Luhansk, Donetsk, Kharkiv, Dnipropetrovsk and Zaporizhia suffer from a severe economic crisis, which is especially stressful for small and medium business owners.

Analysis of business owners’ attitudes in the Donbas region shows that the stressful situation provokes a fear of investing in illiquid assets such as real estate and land. So entrepreneurs in the region are revising their business models, leasing assets where possible and limiting immobile capital investment.

With the goal of assisting SMEs affected most by the economic downturn, as well as those businesses displaced by the conflict, CIPE recently supported at-risk entrepreneurs in six towns (Berdyansk, Pershotravensk, Slavyansk, Lozova, Svatovo and Kreminna) through a business training and mentoring program for 119 people. The USAID-funded project was based on strategies that promote specific business sectors in each of the target communities, which business owners are now beginning to operationalize.

Given the dire economic situation in Donbas, CIPE was pleasantly surprised to encounter several social impact business models. For example, Oleksandr Gadenko from the village of Osypenko near Berdiansk, has a business concept that will extend the public water supply to the villagers who suffer from a complete lack of water.

The business would bring fresh running water to residents of 800 housing units, which currently have no access to water at all. The novel business financing model, involving a mixture of state investment, private funding, and donor support, will allow villagers to access running water while earning a modest rate of return for the business owner.

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Democracy that Delivers Podcast #24: Karina Orlova on the Risks Reporters Face in Russia and Why She Had to Leave

Podcast guest Karina Orlova (right) with hosts Ken Jaques (center) and Julie Johnson.

Podcast guest Karina Orlova (right) with hosts Ken Jaques (center) and Julie Johnson.

The American Interest journalist Karina Orlova discusses the risks reporters face in Russia and why she had to leave. Orlova talks about her experience reporting on Russian politics and business, and the powerful forces that exert control over journalists and media outlets in that country.

She also shares fascinating insights into current living conditions in Russia and citizen attitudes towards corruption and governance. Follow Karina’s work at The American Interest or on her Facebook page.

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Listen to past episodes of our show here.

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Privatization in Ukraine: Not So Fast

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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.

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Ukrainian Business Community Comes Together to Develop Local Business Agendas

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By Bogdana Aleksandrova and Anastasiya Baklan

For the first time in Ukraine’s modern history regional business associations, in cooperation with Chambers of Commerce and Industry and think tanks, are developing and promoting local business agendas.

Historically Ukrainian business associations, chambers, and think tanks have not cooperated closely to form a single voice of business in advocacy efforts.  In view of this history, CIPE developed and delivered training programs to various business support organizations over the past several years, the latest of which occurred over the winter and spring.  The training, encouragement, and support from CIPE have helped to foster the development of coalitions of these organizations following the trainings in several regions around Ukraine (see CIPE’s Bogdana Aleksandrova speak about the advocacy campaigns – in Russian).

The most recent participants in CIPE’s training program will receive ongoing consultations from CIPE experts, including Sergiy Pancir, Head of the Center of Social Partnership and Lobbying under the National University of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy, Denis Bazilevich, Director of the Institute of Professional Lobbying and Advocacy and Ruslan Kraplich, business trainer of the Ostrog Princes Foundation. Now these coalitions are taking the next step, applying their training, and are developing local business agendas.

CIPE recently announced that five regional coalitions, from Sumy, Mykolaev, Ivano-Frankivsk, Kirovohrad, and the city of Kyiv, each consisting of business support organizations and regional think tanks, would receiving small grants and ongoing technical support to develop regional business agendas.

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