To anyone who has traveled frequently to Venezuela, the deterioration of the country is palpable. By day, people fear driving and getting stuck in traffic because motorcycle thugs will tap on their window, show a gun, and demand the handover of cell phones and cash. By night it is worse: going out on the town could involve robbery, kidnapping, and risk of death, so the streets are empty on Friday and Saturday nights in a city that previously boasted an active nightlife.
Shopping is another sad tale — commercial malls show a lack of maintenance, and stores have little merchandise. The common refrain you hear everywhere is “no hay,” or “there aren’t any.” You hear that when asking for anything from cell phones to toilet paper. You hear it in restaurants, too, where chefs somehow manage to figure out how to cook without basic staples such as cooking oil or flour.
If you can even get an airline ticket to Venezuela—international carriers are prevented from taking their profits out of the country, so they are curtailing flights—you will find prices depend entirely on the exchange rate you are able to obtain. If you change money at official rates you will pay $25 for a sandwich and a cup of coffee. If you are lucky enough to obtain the parallel exchange rate—which is running upwards of 10 ten times the official rate—the same meal will cost you $2.50.
How do Venezuelans cope with living this way? There are significant segments of society that still support the government of Nicolás Maduro despite its inability or unwillingness to tackle the huge economic problems the country faces, and which they have mostly caused. As the economy worsens, however, it seems unlikely that even the poorest segments of Venezuelan society who supported Hugo Chavez and now Maduro will continue to provide that support.
Every day on the news we hear about challenges that countries face, ranging from domestic crises to natural disasters. At the same time, we learn about opportunities for advancement created by new technologies and global markets. How ready are countries to absorb negative shocks and capitalize on positive changes? This is the question that KPMG, in cooperation with Oxford Economics, seeks to address through the 2013 Change Readiness Index (CRI).
The index, this year in its second and expanded edition, assesses the ability of 90 countries around the world – from Australia to Afghanistan – to manage change and cultivate opportunity. Based on the analysis of secondary data and primary surveys of over 500 country experts, the index looks at three key elements: enterprise capability, government capability, and people & civil society capability. This data is also accompanied by several case studies that put CRI to the test, looking for instance at the varied capacity of countries to respond to major earthquakes (Haiti, Chile, and Japan).
In 2013, Pakistan experienced its first peaceful transition between two elected, democratic governments. In another first, several parties, including the winning PML-N, produced a concrete manifesto outlining their planned economic policies. But citizens have no mechanism to regularly track what governments are doing towards achieving their election promises.
With CIPE support, the Policy Research Institute of Market Economy (PRIME), an independent economic think tank, has been monitoring progress on the government’s economic manifesto via a carefully designed scorecard. The results show that while the new government has made some progress, implementation of its election promises remains slow.
Minister of Economic Development Pavlo Sheremeta (left) with CIPE Deputy Director Andrew Wilson (center) and László Kállay, SME expert and Professor at Corvinus University of Budapest (right).
In the weeks following the so-called “EuroMaidan” protests in Kyiv that led to the installation of an interim government and the scheduling of early presidential elections, attention in Ukraine began to turn to the need for urgent measures to jump-start the economy, as well as for a comprehensive set of policy reforms in the medium- to longer-term to get the country on track.
With stagnant growth, large fiscal deficits, and the likelihood that international assistance from the IMF will be predicated on a set of austerity measures, many analysts believe that the only way to stimulate Ukraine’s economy is to support the growth of the small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) sector, which represents just a small fraction of the country’s economy in comparison to the countries of Europe which Ukraine aspires to join.
To help articulate just what changes are needed, and to ensure that that the SME sector has a voice in the policy reform discussion, a group of Ukrainian business associations representing SMEs and leading think tanks organized a national forum to discuss a coordinated strategy for reform on April 8-9 with support from CIPE.
By Iryna Fedets
In Kyiv and in other cities across Ukraine, small and medium-sized businesses were a driving force in the recent protests that resulted in the ouster of former President Viktor Yanukovich and the formation of a new Cabinet of Ministers. Entrepreneurs personally participated in the pro-European Union movement, both on the streets and in financing the demonstrations and providing food and medical supplies.
According to a poll conducted in early February 2014, business owners made up about 17 percent of the protesters, although business owners only make up 4 percent of Ukraine’s overall population. Following the 2008 recession, the former government imposed changes in the regulatory and tax structure that increased corruption and raised the burdens on small business, which helped draw them to the streets.
Last month more than 1,000 people gathered for the 2014 Nepal Economic Summit,a historic event hat brought attention to the challenges and opportunities to Nepal’s economic development.
More than 30 international speakers participated in the event including government officials, key ministers, business leaders, and civil society representatives. USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah also attended the event and gave some closing remarks.
CIPE partner Samriddhi, the Prosperity Foundation was the knowledge partner of the event and has been working closely with the government and stakeholders in formulating the reform agendas over the last two years, preparing discussion papers on key issues such as agriculture, energy, and tourism, outlining major challenges and making recommendations. The papers build on Samriddhi’s Nepal Economic Growth Agenda, launched in 2012. Samriddhi’s economic research has become an important source of independent policy analysis in Nepal.
The fall of the Berlin Wall marked the end of the bipolar international order that had dominated since the Second World War. In 1989 Eastern European countries gained the freedom to chart their own future and adopt political and economic institutions based on democratic governance and the free market economic system. In the twenty five years of transition, most states in the region have become full-fledged members of the European Union and achieved significant development milestones in their integration in Western institutions.
Reflecting on the transitional experience of Poland, Dr. Andrzej Arendarski, co-founder and president of the Polish Chamber of Commerce, was invited by the Free Enterprise and Democracy Network to share his recollections in the latest issue of CIPE’s Economic Reform Feature Service article.
Dr. Arendarksi explains the important role the Solidarity trade union played during the Polish transition to democracy and reflects on the significance of reducing barriers and regulations to promote the operation of business and encourage entrepreneurship. He describes democracy as more than a political system, “as a process in which nationals learn to be responsible for their choices,” a set of institutions and a state with free media.
To learn more about lessons emerging from the Polish transition to democracy applicable to reforms in other countries, read the article here.
Teodora Mihaylova is a Research Assistant at CIPE.