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Different strategies of transition to a market economy : how do they work in practice?

Listed author(s):
  • Dabrowski, Marek

In 1989, the former communist countries embarked on a transition from centrally planned command economies to market economies (and from repressive dictatorships to Western-style democracies). In addressing the question,"What is the optimal strategy for this transformation?", the author revisits the controversy about how quickly and radically the new market rules and their components should be adopted in the former communist countries and discusses the economic and political problems associated with different strategies. Among his conclusions: 1) generally, the faster and more comprehensive the economic reform, the more chance there is to minimize its economic, social, and political costs, and to avoid chronic macroeconomic mismanagement. A more radical and disciplined path of transition is all the more important when initial conditions are less favorable and negative external shocks are greater. Only countries such as Hungary - which had made some progress in market-oriented reform before communism's collapse and which experienced less macroeconomic disequilibrium - could go more slowly; 2) political liberalization and democratization helps the economic transition succeed mainly because it helps weaken the political positions of the traditional communist oligraphy, which is interested mainly in rent-seeking; 3) unless stabilization and liberalization are achieved quickly, microeconomic restructuring cannot be expected to progress quickly, even if privatization does (as it has in Russia). Other aspects of the transition may take more time. For privatization to succeed, for example, a legal base and organizational infrastructure must be created. But even with privatization, a rapid transition is less risky for restructuring and for complex institutional reform than a slow transition; 4) there is no way to avoid a relatively large decline in output, especially of industrial production in the state sector; 5) granting concessions to, and bargaining with, various pressure groups does not produce the expected political results or increase social acceptance of reform; and 6) governments should not be afraid of"aiming too high"in embarking on a stabilization program or any other component of transformation. Most post-communist governments do the opposite: dilute the program so much it becomes ineffective.

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Paper provided by The World Bank in its series Policy Research Working Paper Series with number 1579.

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Date of creation: 31 Mar 1996
Handle: RePEc:wbk:wbrwps:1579
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  1. Philippe Aghion & Olivier J. Blanchard, 1994. "On the Speed of Transition in Central Europe," NBER Chapters,in: NBER Macroeconomics Annual 1994, Volume 9, pages 283-330 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Aslund Anders, 1994. "Lessons of the First Four Years of Systemic Change in Eastern Europe," Journal of Comparative Economics, Elsevier, vol. 19(1), pages 22-38, August.
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