As CIPE celebrates its 25 years this year, I look back at my time as CIPE Project Manager in Montenegro from November 2001 to February 2006. One of the most successful projects I had the opportunity to work on was the creation of the Montenegro Business Alliance (MBA). It was established in 2001 as the first private, voluntary business umbrella organization with membership open to entrepreneurs, companies, and business associations. MBA had just ten founding members at its very first organizational assembly meeting in September 2001; by 2006, it gained 450 dues-paying members that represented 15,000 employees and created 1,800 jobs.
This rapid growth was a clear indicator that MBA became Montenegro’s most powerful independent voice for advocating business and market reforms. It managed to accomplish that by working on the issues of high relevance to the business community. MBA organized numerous business forums and seminars on topics such as Company Organization Law or Accounting Law and educated companies on the importance of ethical conduct. MBA’s efforts brought about visible business benefits to its members.
One of CIPE’s most cherished questions, the question that CIPE encourages its program staff to ask on a daily basis throughout program development, implementation, and evaluation, the question that drives the entire process, is the question of why – why do things work the way they do; why do economies grow; why do democracies flourish; why do entrepreneurs innovate; why do citizens participate; and why will CIPE’s programs help make all of these things happen.
CIPE doesn’t just talk about the “why” question. Since 1991, CIPE has devoted entire projects to fostering that dialogue among its staff and its partners. In that year, CIPE published its first edition of Economic Reform Today, a magazine that began CIPE’s tradition of rigorous and provocative self-reflection. As part of that dialogue, CIPE launched its first programmatic website in 1995, the Forum on Economic Reform, which received the “Business Web Site of 1997” Award from the Financial Times of London. In 2000, the Economic Reform Feature Service replaced the magazine, and since then has become part of the Forum project, which expanded to establish many of CIPE’s key communication tools. Started in December 2005, this blog remains a major Forum component.
Through issue papers, web portals, workshops, brownbag discussions, and other media, the Forum project remains the cornerstone of CIPE’s intellectual capital, explaining the conceptual underpinnings of CIPE’s work and providing a centralized location to exchange ideas among CIPE’s partners and others interested in why resilient democracies need resilient markets, and vice versa.
This post is part of a blog series celebrating 25 of years of CIPE’s work by looking back at important moments in CIPE history, hallmarks of our achievements, and our successes today. Look for blog posts with tagged with “CIPE @ 25” to follow this series throughout our 25th anniversary year.
In April 1992, CIPE sponsored its first program in the Middle East by holding a privatization conference in Ankara, Turkey. The decision to hold the conference in Turkey was perhaps a symbolic one, since Turkey has often been at the forefront of modernization in the region, both politically and economically. Fueled by the forces of globalization, the Turkish government embarked on an economic liberalization agenda as early as 1980. However for decades the Turkish economy was beset by high inflation and fiscal irresponsibility that resulted in three financial crises between 1994 and 2001. The victory of the Justice and Development party (AKP) in 2002 finally provided the strong, focused leadership needed to address the fundamental deficiencies of the economy. Supported by the IMF and prodded by the possibility of European Union (EU) membership, the AKP showed an unprecedented commitment to reform, which included sanitizing the banking sector, establishing new regulatory institutions, and strengthening the autonomy of the central bank. By overhauling economic governance structures, the government helped to achieve macro stability: between 2002 and 2007 the Turkish economy experienced an average annual growth rate of 7.5 percent, a drop in the rate of inflation from 60 percent to about 9 percent, almost a doubling of per capita income, and an influx of foreign direct investment (yearly average inflows of FDI increased from $1bn in 2000 to $22bn in 2007).
Throughout this reform process, CIPE has supported vibrant Turkish think-tanks and NGOs as they strengthen Turkey’s burgeoning democratic infrastructure. Projects have included working with:
- The Turkish Economic and Social Studies Foundation (TESEV), to study perceptions of corruption within Turkish society and to form a civil society coalition of business associations, labor unions, academics, and media to advocate anti-corruption policy proposals.
- The Association for Liberal Thinking (ALT), to provide much-needed information services to Turkish parliamentarians on issues of market economy and economic and democratic reform.
- The Center for Society and Economy (TEE), to promote a grassroots model of economic development by encouraging local leaders to develop their own economic development strategies.
- The Center for the Research of Societal Problems (TOSAM), to organize a series of leadership and citizenship training seminars in Southeastern Turkey (Diyarbakir, Batman, Mardin, Batman, Sanli Urfa, Adiyamin, and Sirrt) for Kurdish business people, local community leaders, and youth.
- The Association for Liberal Thinking (ALT), to bring together Islamic thinkers, academics, business people, and media to debate the compatibility of Islam and market economic principles within Turkish society at a major conference as well as at a series of seminars in various universities.
- The Anatolian Young Leaders Association, to help young women entrepreneurs identify solutions to common obstacles facing their entrepreneurial advancement through a 3-month training program.
- The Ekonomistler Platformu (EKP), to enhance the ability of region-based enterprises and business associations through an economic policy summit and through the launch of an on-line business association resource center specific to the Turkish business community.
Solidarity election poster
The iconic images of people enthusiastically tearing down the Berlin Wall on November 9, 1989 have become a symbol of the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe. But it is important to remember that this momentous event was preceded by an equally significant – if somewhat less photogenic – occurrence: elections held in Poland exactly 20 years ago today. They were the outcome of the “Round Table” negotiations between Poland’s communist government and the Solidarity movement and brought a crushing defeat to the regime. Although the elections were not entirely free, Solidarity easily won all 161 seats it was allowed to contest in the Lower House of the Parliament (Sejm) and it took 99 out of 100 seats in the freely contested Upper House (Senat). Subsequently, the first non-communist government in the region since WWII was formed under Solidarity’s leadership.
These events marked the beginning of a democratic transition in Eastern Europe. Yet that transition required much more than just holding elections: institutions of democratic governance had to be built and, crucially, institutions of market economy had to be put in place to ensure the survival of the new and fragile democracies. That is precisely where CIPE was able to help. In 1989, CIPE began to work with one of its first partners in a former communist country, the Krakow Industrial Society – Poland’s first private business association, to encourage, educate, and aid private entrepreneurs.
Celebrating 25 of years of CIPE’s work, an upcoming blog series will look back at important moments in CIPE history, hallmarks of our achievements, and our successes today. Posts will include a look at past and current projects in Turkey, Russia, and Eastern Europe. Look for blog posts tagged with “CIPE @ 25” to follow this series throughout our 25th anniversary year.