Re: Bad Advice From Western Economists
Part of a dialog from CenAsia list, 4 December 1998
Alan, your thoughts on 'bad advice from western economists' are spot on; thank you for saying things that should be said with a passion that they should be said with.
The comment that efforts should be concentrated on the development of industries which should be protected from foreign competition raise an interesting comparison with the policies of presidents Karimov and Akaev. Karimov's close relationship with the all-powerful and favoured Daewoo consortium is more akin to that between the former Communist rulers and state enterprises than any western free market model. It has enjoyed 'unfair' priveleges and forced other competition out, but has created real jobs and trained people with real skills, such as the Andijan car factory. Akaev's Free Enterprise Zones have largely facilitated simply the import of more and cheaper goods (often harmful products like Chinese spirit alcohol or very low quality consumer goods), and undermined any effort to produce those goods in Kyrgyzstan. It is unfortunate that recent attempts to curb them seem to have been unsuccessful.
It is certainly time to reverse many of the economic 'reforms' which, as Alan so movingly complained, have benefited only a few and harmed the majority. However, the Uzbekistan-Kyrgyzstan comparison also raises uncomfortable questions about wider policy issues. Are the better economic policies of Uzbekistan a necessary partner of the repressive human rights record? Is the poverty of Kyrgyzstan the price to be paid for more principled openness and freedom of speech and action? Or is it rather that the adroit and persuasive Thatcherite and Reaganite propaganda machines have succeeded in creating a false vision of the inseparability of capitalism and democracy, a vision which has been forced upon the newly independent states of Central Asia with as perhaps even more arrogance than ignorance?