A Comparative Perspective on Latin America and Eastern Europe
Edited by Werner Baer and Joseph L. Love
Chapter 5: How much does the past count? Interpreting the Romanian transition's politcal successes and economic failures
Baer 02 chap 5 19/10/00 11:48 am Page 103 5. How much does the past count? Interpreting the Romanian transition’s political successes and economic failures Daniel Chirot Since the fall of communism in December, 1989, Romania has experienced some very significant successes and equally important failures. The main success has been that it has established a viable democracy and freely elected a genuinely liberal, reformist government.1 Its main failure has been economic. By the late 1990s, the economy as a whole was performing no better than it had been in the late 1980s. Though the distribution of consumer goods and services was far better than it had been during the period of late communism, overall productivity was not, and much of the population remained in dire poverty. Why has it been so difficult to make economic improvements, and why have Romania’s liberal reformers failed in their endeavor to improve economic performance? No definitive answer to these questions exists, but some tentative ones can be proposed. Though they address Romania’s problems, any such answers also may be useful guides to a better understanding of similar partial failures elsewhere in the former Soviet Union and the Balkans. THE LIBERAL TRIUMPH OF 1996 AND THE NATO FIASCO In 1996 Romania elected a committed, sincere, democratic, and market oriented president and parliament. They were, in the best and most general sense of that word, genuine liberals. The defeated included both the xenophobic far right as well as the more or less reformed communists...
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