Creating Market Economy in Eastern Europe — страница 7

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example, during such a period of rapid change as the 1990s — it is difficult even to develop a way to classify the issues involved in transition. Fourth, important differences exist from one country to another. Our view of the socialist transition process is heavily influenced by our image of the best-known and most advanced reforms, such as those of Poland, Hungary, and Czechoslovakia. We know much less about, and tend to pay less attention to developments where reforms are proceeding at a slower pace, as in Romania and Bulgaria. Figure 1 offers a simple, stylized view of contemporary political and eco­nomic reform (transition) in Eastern Europe. Figure 1. Reform in Eastern Europe POLAND: FROM PLAN TO MARKET VIA SHOCK THERAPY Until Solidarity won the parliamentary

elections in Poland in the summer of 1989, the Polish economy had been, since the end of World War II, a rather typical planned socialist economic system. State ownership predominated, and though economic reform was attempted in varying degrees at different times, little real systemic change had taken place. Moreover, as Table 1 shows, the rate of economic growth continued to decline, and the period saw recurring shortages, increasing inflation, and an understandably declining work ethic. Beginning in 1990, Poland took decisive steps toward a market economy. This "shock therapy" approach was to be sudden, and in this it differed signifi­cantly from the gradualist approach being discussed in other socialist systems. In addition to treeing prices, Poland implemented

monetary controls, the zloty was made convertible into hard currencies, and steps were taken to control wage increases. As we shall see, the "shock therapy" approach has not been without critics. Moreover, although the Polish case quickly attracted the interest of those who study the problems of socialist transition, it was viewed as unique. Thus it was argued that. for a variety of reasons that were discussed earlier, reform was much more likely to succeed in Poland than in a case like the Soviet Union. But before we examine the Polish reform experience in greater detail, we must review what brought the Polish economy to the reform phase and how, at that point, it might be different from other socialist countries. I begin our discussion of Poland with a brief

examination of the setting. Then I discuss the Polish command system, considering the extent to which this system led to distortions in the Polish economic structure. Finally, I turn to the issue of transition and examine the mechanisms utilized and the results achieved thus far. 1) Poland: The Setting By European standards, Poland is a relatively large country. With a land area of just over 300,000 square kilometers, it is just over half the size of France. Moreover, with a population that approached 38 million in 1990, Poland is some 68 percent of the size of France in terms of population. Poland is frequently viewed as having a homo­geneous society, a factor that facilitates economic reform. Although social homogeneity is difficult to measure and may well be overstated in

the Polish case and in other cases (for example, there are regional differentials, urban-rural differentials, and the like), the basic statistical evidence is strong. In terms of religion, 95 percent of the Polish population is Roman Catholic. From a stannic standpoint, 98.7 percent of the population is Polish, and only a few minority groups occur. Urbanization and industrialization have changed the nature of Polish life and customs, but the church, family, and folk ties that have sustained Poland for a long time remain strong. Thus, although Poland must deal with problems of modernization, it also has valued traditions and a clear identity. These quali­ties make implementing change more manageable here than in many other countries. In terms of natural resources, Poland is a

country of considerable regional diversity, though major portions of the land area are not especially fertile. Poland's main energy resource is coal; basic minerals and some deposits of oil and natural gas also exist. Both basic data and methods of computing economic aggregates of socialist systems are currently under scrutiny. New evidence that will make it possible to do different kinds of computations may well lead to important adjustments. With these reservations in mind, however, we note that Poland was reported to have a per capita gross national product of approximately $4500 measured in 1989 U.S. dollars. This figure places it between the high-income countries of the region (Hungary and Czechoslovakia) and the low-income countries (Bulgaria, Romania, Yugoslavia) and at