This chapter analyzes the role of structural reform in the transition experience of the CIS-7 countries. The seven countries share many common features, beginning with their depressed income levels. All are landlocked, apart from Georgia, with its Black Sea access. Six are small in population, with between 4 and 8 million; Uzbekistan is the exception, with 25 million people (Table 4.1). More than half the population of the Kyrgyz Republic, Moldova, and Tajikistan is rural; Azerbaijan and Georgia also have rural shares above the former Soviet average. Most of the CIS-7 countries are resource abundant, but with differing specializations, and in most cases the benefits have still to be fully realized.

This chapter analyzes the role of structural reform in the transition experience of the CIS-7 countries. The seven countries share many common features, beginning with their depressed income levels. All are landlocked, apart from Georgia, with its Black Sea access. Six are small in population, with between 4 and 8 million; Uzbekistan is the exception, with 25 million people (Table 4.1). More than half the population of the Kyrgyz Republic, Moldova, and Tajikistan is rural; Azerbaijan and Georgia also have rural shares above the former Soviet average. Most of the CIS-7 countries are resource abundant, but with differing specializations, and in most cases the benefits have still to be fully realized.

Table 4.1.

Bask Statistics for the CIS-7 Countries

(In percent, unless otherwise indicated)

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Sources: IMF (2002); EBRD (2002a); World Bank (2002b).

Three basic questions need to be addressed on structural reform in the CIS-7 countries: Where are they now? How did they get there? What does it mean?

The first section examines the relationship between policy reform and economic performance. The experience of the CIS-7 countries reinforces the general finding that peace and macroeconomic stabilization are prerequisites for successful economic development. The relationship between the speed and extent of structural reform and changes in the level of output is not the positive one that might be expected. A plausible explanation is that a positive relationship between structural reforms and increased output is conditional on an effective state providing infrastructure and other services.

The next section analyzes seven key dimensions of structural reform: liberalization of internal markets and international trade, enterprise reforms and enforcement of budget constraints, facilitation of new entry, banking and other financial market reforms, land privatization and redistribution, transport and telecommunications, and reform of other infrastructure services. It finds that the first phase of transition to a market-based economy is essentially complete. Price levels have stabilized. Small-scale enterprises are overwhelmingly in private hands, as are some large enterprises. However, structural reform remains at an embryonic stage, and the new market-based economies function poorly and fail to deliver the living standards that were expected to result from the transition from central planning. Progress on privatization has been slow, many obstacles to entry remain, banking reform is incomplete, ownership rights in land are still ambiguous, and infrastructure is in a poor state. The incompletely reformed economies threaten to ossify into economic systems whose components mutually reinforce the incomplete reform.

The third section takes up the cross-cutting theme of the role of the state. Governments have yet to adjust to the role of the state in a market economy. A fundamental problem has been inadequate mobilization of revenues. Legal and judicial reform, so that the state can provide law and order, has also been incomplete. Related to this situation is the ubiquitous problem of corruption. A reflection of these interconnected shortcomings is the size of the shadow economy in all of the CIS-7 countries except Uzbekistan. Economic agents, if not completely discouraged from productive activities, prefer to operate outside the official economy.

Policy Reform and Growth

The cross-country empirical literature on growth in transition economies has centered on the role of initial conditions and of policies (macroeconomic stabilization and structural reform).1 Some studies, especially earlier studies with a time series dominated by the first half of the 1990s, found a significant relationship between war and conflict and growth. War and civil strife in Georgia and Moldova in 1992 and in Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Tajikistan in 1992–94 not only destroyed human lives and physical infrastructure, but also undermined the political consensus necessary for economic policy reform. Only the Kyrgyz Republic and Uzbekistan had a peaceful transition from Soviet republics to nation states.

The growth record during transition is complicated by the hyperinflation of the early 1990s and by the huge changes in consumption bundles and output mix following the end of central planning. Especially for the first half of the 1990s, national output measures were revised frequently, so comparisons with estimated pre-1992 output may be unreliable. In 1991, the Central Asian countries and Azerbaijan were the poorest Soviet republics, with the highest incidence of poverty, but some estimates of per capita gross national product (GNP) in U.S. dollars at independence did not place Armenia or Georgia far ahead of Uzbekistan. Yet after a decade in which Uzbekistan’s economy grew slightly while Georgia’s output fell by almost two-thirds, the two countries’ GNP per capita in U.S. dollars were estimated to be almost identical (see Table 4.1).

Keeping such reservations about data in mind, some patterns of growth performance can be identified. Growth was negative in all the CIS-7 countries until 1994–95. Recovery faltered somewhat following the 1998 Russian financial crisis, with Moldova experiencing a return to negative growth. All countries have experienced positive growth since 2000. Nevertheless, real output remains significantly below pretransition levels in all countries except Uzbekistan.

In terms of real gross domestic product (GDP) growth over the decade following independence, Uzbekistan has the best record of all the former Soviet republics, and Moldova and Georgia the worst (Figure 4.1). Armenia and Azerbaijan suffered major economic disruption during the first half of the 1990s but have enjoyed economic growth since the late 1990s, and Azerbaijan has prospects of sustained growth led by exploitation of its abundant oil reserves. Tajikistan also had high growth in 2000 and 2001, but its civil strife eased only after a 1997 peace accord, and recent growth still reflects recovery from the low output levels of the mid- and late 1990s. The Kyrgyz Republic had a fairly deep transitional recession followed by growth since 1996, but its low per capita GNP suggests a disappointing economic performance (although GDP in purchasing power parity presents a more positive picture relative to the other CIS-7 countries except Georgia).

Figure 4.1.
Figure 4.1.

Trends in GDP in the CIS-7 Countries 1989–2002

(1989= 100)

Sources: EBRD (1997) and (2002a).

Initial Conditions

Initial conditions in the CIS-7 countries are less varied than in the transition economies as a whole, because all seven had the shared experience of being Soviet republics until December 1991. The Caucasus countries (Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia) had a greater sense of national identity than the Central Asian countries (the Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan), but none of the CIS-7 countries had a recent memory of statehood or of a market economy. By geography, all of the CIS-7 countries are disadvantaged relative to the Central and Eastern European transition economies, but it is difficult to assess the degree of disadvantage among them. Georgia has Black Sea ports, and all of the Caucasus countries have easier geographic access to Western Europe (as well as to Turkey and Iran) than do the Central Asian countries, which are geographically isolated and whose inherited transport and pipeline links all run north to Russia. Moldova is geographically further west, but it borders only Romania and Ukraine and is not on major east-west transport routes.

All Soviet republics’ economies were integrated into the Soviet system, with very little external trade. The Central Asian republics supplied raw materials, especially cotton. Azerbaijan’s economic importance for most of the twentieth century lay in its oil, but its resources were not exploited very actively in the final decades of the Soviet era. All the CIS-7 countries had industrial sectors that were part of the integrated Soviet economy, with poor prospects of prospering as self-standing industrial sectors. An immediate shock following the dissolution of the Soviet Union was the shift from artificial prices, with energy underpriced and manufactures overpriced, to world prices. Moldova suffered the greatest negative terms-of-trade shock, but Armenia and Georgia and to a lesser extent Azerbaijan and Tajikistan also suffered negative terms-of-trade effects.2

The most important, and most difficult to measure, initial condition was social and political stability. Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Moldova all inherited secessionist problems that led to conflict in the early 1990s, and the status of Abkhazia, Nagorno-Karabakh, and Transnistria remains unresolved. Tajikistan’s civil war was ended by a 1997 peace accord, but the central government still does not control the national territory, and policy implementation is compromised. The Kyrgyz Republic and Uzbekistan have had internal peace, but their governments have used external threats, notably that of Islamic fundamentalism, to justify limiting human rights and democratic processes.

Policies and Explanations for Growth Failures

Macroeconomic stabilization has been a significant explanatory variable in crosscountry studies of growth in transition economies. All the CIS-7 countries suffered from hyperinflation and from the disintegration of the ruble zone in 1992–93, and all have achieved a degree of stability despite further external shocks—especially the Russian financial crisis of 1998. Annual inflation was brought below 50 percent in 1995 in the Kyrgyz Republic and Moldova; in 1996 in Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia; and in 1998 in Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. The three Caucasus countries have established credible price stabilization records over the past five years. The other countries’ inflation records have been uneven. Although none has slipped back above the 50 percent mark, Moldova and Tajikistan had inflation rates over 30 percent in 2000, and Uzbekistan’s inflation rate is repressed by foreign exchange and other price controls. Several CIS-7 countries have external debts that could threaten their macroeconomic stability.

The pattern of initial conditions and macroeconomic stabilization of the CIS-7 countries is consistent with the broader evidence from transition economies. Given the initial conditions and mixed macro stabilization records, growth records of the transition economies can be related to the pace of structural reform. Here, however, the picture is less clear. Why did the Kyrgyz Republic and Moldova, countries with good reform records, especially in the first half of the 1990s, perform much more poorly than Uzbekistan, with its more limited structural reforms? Indeed, why has Uzbekistan enjoyed the best output performance of all the new independent states since the dissolution of the Soviet Union?

One possible explanation is that structural reform has been far from complete. Reforms that might be part of an optimal across-the-board package may be welfare-reducing when introduced piecemeal. This explanation is unconvincing, however, because there is strong international evidence that structural reforms in each of the areas undertaken are desirable, and although there are likely to be losers as well as winners from the reforms, negative resource allocation consequences are uncommon.

A second explanation is that the areas of structural reform are not equally important. The view that Uzbekistan is a laggard rests on lack of reforms in currency convertibility, price liberalization (mainly the state orders), governance and enterprise restructuring, banking, telecommunications, and roads and water, but Uzbekistan rates highly on railways and air transport. More generally, infrastructure and public services seem to work well in Uzbekistan compared with the other CIS-7 countries.

By contrast, the Kyrgyz Republic, despite its strong reformist credentials for most of the 1990s, had terrible infrastructure. Bishkek airport was closed to international flights for most of the decade, and internal communications between the north and south of the country relied on a poor road. Geography does not help the Kyrgyz Republic, but without decent infrastructure it was difficult either to create a well-functioning integrated national economy or to benefit from outward-oriented growth. This view acknowledges the potential benefits of structural reform but makes success conditional on preconditions such as price stabilization, peace and order, and good infrastructure.

A third explanation, to some extent a generalization of the previous one, is that an effective state is the crucial precondition for successful transition. The CIS-7 countries include the five Soviet successor states that endured the most violent passage to nationhood. Georgia, Moldova, and Tajikistan went through civil wars, and even today some areas of the countries are not under central government control. Armenia and Azerbaijan fought a bitter war in 1992–94, which caused much suffering and economic disruption but did not undermine state legitimacy. The Kyrgyz Republic and Uzbekistan had peaceful transitions to nationhood, although the Kyrgyz Republic is riven by political and economic divisions between north and south.

Output performance, measured by real GDP in 2001 as a percentage of real GDP in 1989, follows a threefold division that reflects these histories much more closely than it matches the extent of structural reforms (see Table 4.1). Moldova, Georgia, and Tajikistan have the worst performance; Azerbaijan, Armenia, and the Kyrgyz Republic are intermediate; and Uzbekistan is the best performer. Failure to create an effective state is evident in the three poor performers.3 Uzbekistan’s central government, by contrast, has largely achieved its aim of being technocratically efficient. This last explanation of course begs the question of what makes for an effective state in the context of the CIS-7 countries, an issue discussed later in the chapter.

Structural Reform

The most frequently used indicators of the extent of structural reform and progress toward creating a market economy are those prepared by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD). For the CIS-7 countries, the general picture is of substantial progress in price liberalization and small-scale privatization and limited progress in large-scale privatization and restructuring or financial sector reform (Table 4.2). The CIS-7 countries also rank poorly on institutional reform and on provision of infrastructure.

Table 4.2.

Liberalization Indicators for the CIS-7 Countries, 2001

(EBRD index)

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Source: EBRD (2002b).Note: The measurement scale is from 1, little or no change, to 4+, represerting the standards of an industrialized market economy.

Among the CIS-7 countries, the three Caucasus countries and the Kyrgyz Republic generally rank better on EBRD status of transition indicators than do Moldova, Tajikistan, or Uzbekistan (see Table 4.2). The pace of liberalization has not been even, however. In 1995 the Kyrgyz Republic, Moldova, and Uzbekistan had the highest liberalization indices, followed by Armenia and Georgia and then Tajikistan and Azerbaijan.4 The EBRD indices suggest that the transition process has stalled in the first three countries since the mid-1990s and accelerated in the last four, where the process was disrupted by conflicts in 1992–94.

Liberalization of Internal Markets and International Trade

The Kyrgyz Republic (since 1998), Georgia (2000), and Moldova (2001) are members of the World Trade Organization (WTO). The other four countries have applied for membership. But even among the WTO members, the operation of the law of one price and commitment to market mechanisms are imperfect.

  • The Kyrgyz Republic’s international trade is hampered by the country’s landlocked status. Almost all overland transport must transit Uzbekistan or Kazakhstan plus another country. The Kyrgyz domestic market is not integrated. There are large differences in incomes between the north and south, but the labor flows that would respond to and whittle down the wage differentials are not happening.5

  • In 2001, Georgia, in breach of WTO rules, introduced export restrictions on scrap metal, its largest export, and on timber. Although the restrictions were removed in 2002, the episode raised questions about the government’s commitment to WTO obligations. In both Georgia and Moldova, secessionist forces limit the government’s control over parts of the national territory and its ability to monitor borders.

  • Armenia and Azerbaijan are not yet WTO members, but their records on trade and foreign exchange liberalization do not fall much short of the CIS-7 countries that are WTO members. But their international trade is hindered by regional tensions that prevent normal relations between them and hamper development of regional initiatives. Despite a ceasefire in 1994, a formal agreement remains elusive. In Tajikistan, even since the formal end of the war in 1997, the central government has had difficulty exercising control over the entire national territory. Domestic commerce remains restricted by poor transport infrastructure, local government intervention (requiring permits and charging fees for crossing district boundaries), and licensing requirements.

  • Uzbekistan is the laggard in price liberalization. Uzbekistan has a liberal tariff schedule, but currency convertibility has been severely restricted and key goods like cotton are still marketed through a state trading system. Both the foreign exchange controls and the state trading requirements are being liberalized, and Uzbekistan is committed to establishing current account convertibility. This pattern of delayed but eventual reform is typical of Uzbekistan. It resisted International Monetary Fund (IMF)-style macroeconomic stabilization in 1992–93, but after the government accepted the desirability of tightening monetary policies, implementation was purposeful in 1994. If the government fulfills its promises about currency convertibility, Uzbekistan will have a fairly liberal trade regime. The remaining holdout against price liberalization will then be the agricultural sector. The government recognizes the allocative efficiency arguments for ending state marketing, but it remains dependent on cotton for substantial revenue,6 so it would need to introduce alternative revenue-raising measures that could be politically costly.

Enterprise Reforms and Enforcement of Budget Constraints

Privatization of small companies and of housing was effectively completed during the 1990s, but privatization of large enterprises has proceeded much more slowly, especially for strategic enterprises, which often have included infrastructure providers. Even when formal changes in ownership status have occurred, management change and restructuring have rarely followed.

Measures of private sector share in GDP could be landmark indicators of progress in transition, but the EBRD’s rounded numbers are very approximate estimates (see Table 4.2). In the CIS-7 countries, agriculture is a major sector in which ownership status is often opaque. Small and medium-sized enterprises operate on the margins of the official economy and are underreported. Ownership of a few major enterprises can affect the aggregate figure in the small CIS-7 economies—the Kumtor gold mine, jointly run by a Canadian company and a state entity, accounted for 16 percent of the Kyrgyz Republic’s GDP in 2001.7 The EBRD’s transition indicators for large-scale privatization are also imprecise.

  • The Kyrgyz Republic was one of the most rapid reformers in the CIS during the early 1990s. Reforms included both small enterprise privatization and transfer of most large and medium-sized enterprises into private ownership through a voucher scheme.

  • In Moldova, voucher-based mass privatization in 1994–96 led to whole or partial divestiture of more than a thousand large and medium-sized state enterprises, but it was considered unsuccessful because it resulted in fragmented ownership. The emphasis then shifted to cash sales by tender or by auction.

  • In Armenia, despite early and rapid privatization of land, privatization of large and medium-sized enterprises followed a path similar to that in Moldova. A voucher period in 1995–99 was followed by an emphasis on cash sales, but large-scale privatization remains incomplete, and restructuring has been limited.

  • In Azerbaijan, although small and medium-sized enterprises have been privatized, there has been only limited progress in privatizing large enterprises. Foreign purchase, while invited, is often discouraged by packaging unattractive options with desirable assets and by requiring investors to settle enterprises’ past debts. Restructuring has been slow, and high levels of interenterprise arrears and nonperforming loans owed by state enterprises have inhibited financial sector development and strategic foreign investment.

  • In Uzbekistan, small and medium-sized enterprises were privatized in 1992–93, but privatization of large enterprises has been slow. A list of 258 large companies to be sold by tender was drawn up in 1998 but aroused little interest owing to high prices and restrictions on changing the output mix. A revised list in December 1999 included 162 enterprises, but for some enterprises less than 50 percent of shares were offered for sale. In sum, the state retains whole or majority ownership of many large enterprises. Even when the state is not a majority shareholder, it can postpone strategic decisions in shareholder meetings if the decisions do not accord with its interests.

  • In Tajikistan, formal privatization of large enterprises has been very slow, although large parts of the state sector effectively have collapsed as many assets were stolen. Privatization of large and medium-sized enterprises was launched in 1992, but by the end of 1997 only 30 enterprises had sold shares, and even these enterprises had 60 percent of their shares unsold.

In general, privatization has not led to desirable restructuring in the CIS-7 countries, especially when the incumbent managers retain control. Reforms seeking to displace the incumbents face determined resistance from that group.

Moldova has tried an innovative approach to inclusive restructuring. The Agency for Restructuring and Enterprise Assistance (ARIA), established in 1995/96 with World Bank support, had restructured 90 enterprises by 2001, creating more than 450 small and medium-sized enterprises.8 A key feature was ARIA’s commitment to not having permanent staff or providing finance, but rather encouraging its clients to solve their own problems and generate their own funding by sale or leasing of equipment or space. Thus creditors did not view ARIA as a cash cow that would service their nonperforming loans and had to accept a share of the loss from misallocated capital. Small and medium-sized enterprises were created by spinning them off from the oversized state enterprises or by leasing space to enterprises seeking to expand. Although the aim is internal restructuring rather than foreign investment, ARIA facilitates trade links so that the small and medium-sized enterprises can make subcontracting deals with European Union (EU) companies and also arranges for managers and workers to visit firms in the near West. The ARIA approach has been adopted by Armenia and Georgia.

The Environment for Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises and New Entry

All the CIS-7 governments support small and medium-sized enterprises and foreign direct investment, but the practical impediments to new entry are substantial. Potential new entrants are deterred by the complexity of regulations and tax codes (discussed in this section), and also by lack of access to finance, poor infrastructure provision, corruption, and lack of secure property rights (discussed later in the chapter).

Evidence from surveys of entrepreneurs is mixed on the relative importance of the various obstacles faced by small businesses, but recurring items are the level and complexity of red tape and taxation, the lack of protection of property rights, the threat of violence, and limited access to working capital. The macroeconomic environment has been a major perceived obstacle in the Kyrgyz Republic and Moldova. Many of the small enterprises privatized in the early years of transition failed to survive in a market environment.9

Foreign direct investment (FDI) has been concentrated in natural resource extraction, where the host countries require the technical expertise of foreign companies. Among the CIS-7 countries, natural resource extraction concerns mainly the oil industry in Azerbaijan, which received more than $3.7 billion in FDI during the 1990s (Table 4.3). The Kumtor gold mine in Kyrgyz Republic has also been developed by a foreign investor, Cameco from Canada. But apart from Azerbaijan, inflows of FDI have been small overall (less than US$0.75 billion) and per capita (less than US$150).

Table 4.3.

Foreign Direct Investment in the CIS-7 Countries, 1989–2000

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Source: EBRD (2002b).

Several countries have sought foreign buyers or managers for state enterprises, but the terms generally have not been attractive enough. In Moldova, foreigners have bid for state enterprises, with Russia’s Gazprom taking a majority shareholding in Moldovagas and Spain’s Union Fenosa taking a stake in electricity distribution. Most of the other FDI has been in agriprocessing or wine. In Georgia, the U.S. company AES took over the main electricity distribution company in 1999. In Armenia, the Greek company OTE controls the main telephone company. In March 2001, the Dutch company Fondel was awarded a 25-year management contract for Azerbaijan Aluminum, with a commitment to invest over the next five years.

Outside the natural resource sectors, new foreign-invested projects, whether wholly foreign owned or joint ventures, have tended to be small. The UzDaewoo car factory in Uzbekistan is an exception; it has produced new models of cars and a minibus for the domestic market, although exports have been few.

Banking and Other Financial Market Reforms

All the CIS-7 countries replaced the monobank system of the centrally planned economy with two-tier banking systems, but none has created an efficient financial sector yet. The typical picture is one of too many undercapitalized new banks coexisting with successors to the old state bank, with all failing to provide effective financial intermediation. Indicators of financial development such as M3 (a measure of the broad money supply)/GDP are low (Table 4.4), and access to credit is difficult for small and medium-sized enterprises. EBRD indicators of financial reform show no progress in Tajikistan and very limited change (indices from 2− to 2+) in the other six countries. Some initial steps toward strengthening the banking sector are now being taken, although little has been done to develop securities markets or nonbank financial intermediaries.

Table 4.4.

Financial Indicators for the CI5-7, 2000

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Source. EBRD (2002b).

M2 is used rather than M3.

  • In Armenia, M3/GDP increased from 8 percent in 1995 to 15 percent in 2000, and nonperforming loans fell from 36 percent to 6 percent. However, the banking sector is small. At the start of 2001, banking system capitalization was US$61 million, but by September 2001 it had fallen to US$35 million, with total banking system assets of just over US$400 million.10 Eight of the 30 banks are under government-appointed administration. At the end of 2000, the last fully state-owned bank, the Armenian Savings Bank, was sold to Armenian investors with limited banking experience, and the bank needs much restructuring. To strengthen the banking sector, minimum capital requirements were increased in 2001 and 2002 and are set to reach US$5 million by 2005. Reforms in 2001 also included a new law for determining when a bank is insolvent and procedures for liquidating insolvent banks.

  • Azerbaijan remains undercapitalized and overbanked, even though the number of banks declined from 210 in 1994 to 53 in 2001. Two state-owned banks dominate the sector, accounting for more than half the banking sector’s total assets.11 A sign of the sector’s weakness was the March 2002 withdrawal from retail banking by HSBC, the only major international bank active in that market. In 2001, the Central Bank moved to improve internal audit capacity and accounting policies and procedures and introduced minimum capital requirements of US$5 million for new banks and US$2 million for existing banks (raised to US$2.5 million in 2002). In late 2000, an estimated 60 percent of banks were not in compliance with minimum capital requirements.12 The Baku Stock Exchange started trading in 2000, but apart from T-bills, trading has been minuscule.

  • Georgia has too many banks, and they provide limited financial intermediation (only 3 percent of the population have bank accounts), with big spreads between deposit and lending rates (10–20 percent). The share of nonperforming loans fell from 40 percent in 1995 to 6 percent in 2000, but in late 2000 a number of banks were in financial distress because of management and corporate governance problems. In early 2001 six banks closed. In January 2001, minimum capital requirements were increased from US$ 1 million to US$2.4 million, and a new asset classification system and international accounting standards were required for most banks. In October 2001, a new banking law established a legal framework and procedures for dealing with distressed banks.

  • The financial systems in the three Caucasus countries are highly dollarized. The share of bank deposits denominated in U.S. dollars in September 2001 was 81 percent in Azerbaijan, 80 percent in Armenia, and 78 percent in Georgia. Macroeconomic stabilization and low inflation (see Table 4.1) have not generated sufficient confidence in the national currencies. Cash transactions remain ubiquitous and are associated with large shadow economies, whose existence perpetuates low levels of tax collection. Denationalization of the money supply and preference for cash also characterize the Kyrgyz Republic, Moldova, and Tajikistan, but to a lesser degree.

  • The Kyrgyz banking sector was transformed between 1993, when it was state-bank dominated and 92 percent of loans were nonperforming, and 1998, when nonperforming loans were negligible. In 1998, M2/GDP was 14 percent, and state-owned banks held only 7 percent of the banking sector’s assets. The banks were fragile, however, and public confidence was undermined by a banking crisis in 1998–99 in which three of the four largest banks were liquidated. Banking sector assets fell from US$ 160 million to US$90 million at the end of 2000. Since the crisis, financial sector reforms have been on hold. The Central Bank retains ownership of key banks. Parliament blocked a tender for privatizing the Savings and Settlement Corporation. In July 2001, the minimum capital requirement was raised to US$2.14 million, but only about a third of banks are complying. The government aims to improve prudential regulation, auditing standards, and public confidence, but it recognizes the need for institutional reforms to encourage bank lending and for technical change to improve efficiency. Reform efforts have been undermined, however, by political interventions halting corrective measures when they threatened favored banks.

  • In Moldova, all banks except the Savings Bank became private in 1992. Broad money has been increasing, reaching 23 percent of GDP by the end of 2001. Nonperforming loans fell from 46 percent of loans in 1996 to 21 percent in 2000. Minimum capital requirements were increased in 2001. By mid-2001, 4 of the country’s 20 banks met the minimum capital requirements and could engage in domestic banking, 9 had twice the minimum capital requirements and could engage in foreign exchange operations, and 3 dealt in trusts and equities; the other 4 banks were suspended. In the second half of 2001, loans increased by 36 percent, and there was a further reduction in bad loans. The banking sector remains concentrated, with five banks accounting for two-thirds of total assets.

  • Uzbekistan’s banking sector remains dominated by state banks (see Table 4.4), with the National Bank of Uzbekistan alone holding 55 percent of the assets. Current plans for privatizing it by 2004 appear unrealistic. Much of the government’s national investment plan is operated through the banking system, with credit channeled to state enterprises, often at preferential rates. Farmers also receive payment through the banking system. Many deposit holders have restricted access to funds in their accounts, although the government planned to cancel restrictions on cash withdrawals by the end of 2002.

  • In Tajikistan, public confidence in the financial system is low, and bank deposits amounted to less than 3 percent of GDP in 2000. In June 2001, restructuring agreements between the National Bank of Tajikistan and the four largest commercial banks expired. The agreements led to improvements in the banks’ net worth, loan recovery, staff training, and credit assessment procedures, although two large banks (Amonatbank and Agroinvestbank) remain weak. The National Bank of Tajikistan intends to strengthen its supervisory capacity and to increase minimum capital requirements to US$2 million.

The degree of structural reform in the financial sector is obviously far behind that of Eastern European transition economies, but progress is difficult to assess. There is two-way causality: lagging financial sector development has held back the real sector, but banks have been constrained by the limited loan possibilities caused by poor economic conditions and by limited fee-earning activities. Ownership does not seem to be critical in itself; Moldova, for example, quickly reduced the role of state-owned banks, but its financial sector remains fragile. Mismanagement and lack of trained staff appear to be crucial, irrespective of ownership.

Although banks have enjoyed soft budget constraints, many banks (more than 170 in Azerbaijan) have been permitted to fail, and failure was usually connected to insider lending, mismanagement, or poor governance systems. Prudential regulation is improving, but legislation has run ahead of observance and enforcement. One problem is the number and quality of staff in bank supervision departments—and the high turnover. Stricter prudential regulations have often led to nonlending rather than to better lending, so that banks are not playing the financial disciplining role that would be expected in a well-functioning market economy. Nonlending is also connected to the broader institutional issues of the enforcement of contracts and ability to foreclose on delinquent borrowers.

Land Privatization and Redistribution

Although CIS-7 governments have espoused the desirability of increasing farmers’ incentives through land reform, governments have been reluctant to allow full private property rights over land. State and collective farm managers have resisted change strongly in some cases.

The most radical land reform in the CIS-7 has been in Armenia and Georgia, where independent private farms now dominate (see Chapter 7). The redistribution of land on the basis of family size resulted in very small farms and a steep decline in marketed output.13 Azerbaijan and Moldova transformed their farm sectors in 1998–99, although legislation permitting private ownership had existed in Moldova since 1991–92 and in Azerbaijan since 1995–96. Both countries issued paper land shares to rural households and then in 1998 started to convert the paper certificates into physical plots. The Kyrgyz Republic allowed private land ownership after a referendum in June 1998, although it was followed by a five-year moratorium on transactions involving land. These five countries have the most liberal land policies in the CIS-7.14 Tajikistan has enacted a land reform program but has made little progress in implementation owing to the complexity and cost of obtaining a certificate for cession of land and the renewed outbreak of civil war between December 1996 and June 1997. Uzbekistan retains full state ownership of land.

Several countries have introduced leasing arrangements for land or partial decollectivization of state farms. The Kyrgyz Republic established 99-year land use rights for private farms and a land registration system. Uzbekistan introduced 49-year land use leases, but lease transfers are restricted. Despite potential benefits, and references to China’s household responsibility system as a model for granting use rights without private land ownership, such reforms have had limited impact in the CIS-7 countries.

Except in Armenia and Georgia, corporate and other organizational forms retaining many of the attributes of the old collective farms have proliferated, making it difficult to establish how effectively the farm sector has been restructured. A key impediment has been the power of state farm managers to influence legislation and its implementation at the farm level.15 The division of state farm assets has been controversial, with many stories of farmers out of favor with state farm managers receiving a spare tractor wheel or other useless piece of equipment as their share. In Central Asia and Azerbaijan, access to irrigation is often more important than the land itself. The state’s role in agriculture remains especially strong in Uzbekistan, with state orders for the two main crops (cotton and wheat) and state involvement in the distribution of fertilizer, seed, chemicals, and machinery, as well as state financing and maintenance of the irrigation system. The organization of much of the land area appears to have changed little, though the choice of output mix and of inputs has changed.16

Transport and Telecommunications

A key impediment to growth in transition economies has been the failure to upgrade infrastructure. For the CIS-7 countries, the inherited networks of railways, urban transport, gas and electric power, heating, water, and wastewater were adequate. The telecommunications systems were primitive, and the newly independent countries fell further behind global standards as they responded weakly to the challenges and opportunities of technological progress. The provision of utilities also has deteriorated owing to lack of maintenance and poor management, closely related to the failure of large-scale privatization and restructuring.


The rail network was an essential link in the Soviet economic system, which combined an emphasis on economies of scale with distribution of production facilities across the land mass of the Soviet Union. The largest industrial enterprises in the Kyrgyz Republic and Tajikistan processed cane sugar from Cuba and bauxite from Guinea, respectively. Since independence, many of these production chains have become uneconomic as transport services are priced to cover costs, even though the rail network remains intact.

Transport facilities have deteriorated owing to lack of maintenance. Rail transport remains important for Georgia and Uzbekistan, which were rail hubs in the Soviet system, and to a lesser extent for Azerbaijan and Moldova. While some countries still have good access to the Russian rail network, Russia gives priority to domestic services over what are now international services. Travel times fell and service improved between Russian cities while travel times between Russian cities and the new national capitals increased.17

Azerbaijan and Georgia have retained their roles in the transcaucasian link from the Caspian to the Black Sea, but Azerbaijan’s link to Russia has been closed intermittently by the Chechnya conflict, and Georgia’s railway link to Russia has been closed since Abkhazia’s de facto secession in 1993. In Moldova, the secession of Transnistra causes problems because the border is sometimes blocked. Soviet planners’ disregard for republic borders has meant that travel between the Kyrgyz Republic’s two main cities and Russia requires transiting Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Kazakhstan. Tajikistan also is served by spurs from Uzbekistan rather than having a national rail network.

A recurring problem is lack of funds to maintain, let alone replace, rolling stock and track. Tajik Railway has at most 45 functioning locomotives, and yet it carries some 90 percent of Tajikistan’s international commodity trade. In Moldova, the number of usable locomotives has fallen from 265 in 1994 to less than a hundred. The Moldovan rail company cross-subsidizes passengers from freight revenues, reporting small accounting profits in recent years but following an unsustainable path, as decline in service quality will drive away customers. On the main transcaucasus rail line across Azerbaijan and Georgia, average train speeds are 33 kilometers per hour, although the track’s design speed is 80 kilometers per hour. Uzbekistan’s state railway transport monopoly is being broken up with support from the Asian Development Bank and EBRD.

Even more than railways, road networks have been allowed to deteriorate through lack of investment and maintenance. Armenia, with its limited rail network and strained relations with its neighbors, has put more effort into maintaining roads, but only by the low standards of the CIS-7 countries. Elsewhere, road transport is hampered by narrow and poorly maintained roads. In Tajikistan, 190 bridges and 780 kilometers of roads were destroyed during the 1990s by war or natural disaster, and even the remaining roads are in abject condition. The main road north from Dushanbe deteriorates into a rutted track a few dozen kilometers north of the capital and is impassable for part of the winter.

Air transport is of variable quality in the CIS-7 countries. Uzbekistan, as the regional air hub, inherited the best stock of Aeroflot planes. After a shaky start, Uzbekistan Airways has upgraded its fleet and service and established itself as a competitive international airline, not only serving Tashkent but also capturing traffic from Europe to South or East Asia. Domestic air routes in Uzbekistan also are served by an efficient network with some modern aircraft. The other national airlines are less efficient, and their fleets are outdated. Although other international airlines serve their capital cities, connections can be poor.


Reform progress in telecommunications is difficult to evaluate because, more than in other infrastructure areas, contemporaneous technical changes have major economic implications. Twenty years ago, almost every country in the world had a state-run monopoly provider of telephone services, but since 1980 there has been a worldwide process of privatization. Among the CIS-7 countries, telephone networks are most extensive in Armenia (15.7 per 100 inhabitants), Moldova (12.7), and Georgia (11.6) and most sparse in Tajikistan (3.7) and Uzbekistan (6.7). Structural reform is likely to depend on the expansion and network access of cellular services, so that the number of fixed lines will soon be an inadequate measure. In breaking up state monopolies, new ownership matters, but there is evidence that an effective regulatory framework is more important and that it matters which is put in place first.18

  • The Armenian telecommunications operator, Armentel, is controlled by the Greek company OTE. Its plans to raise charges and abandon flat tariffs on local calls have been assented to by the Armenian government, subject to OTE’s investing US$300 million in the system by 2006. Profits were down by nearly 50 percent in 2000.

  • Georgia’s local telecommunications operator was offered for privatization, but investor interest was limited because the company’s financial viability was not clear and the more lucrative national operator was scheduled for privatization.

  • Azerbaijan plans to privatize Aztelecom and Baku City Telephone Network. Three joint ventures, in which the Azerbaijan government holds a 50 percent stake, provide mobile services.

  • Moldova planned the sale of 51 percent of MoldTelecom for the second half of 2002. In 2000, a cellular license was sold to a Moldovan-Turkish joint venture, followed by issuance of a second mobile license and creation of an independent regulatory agency. In all of these countries, the benefits in terms of true structural reform are unclear.

  • In the Kyrgyz Republic, the physical infrastructure was improved during the 1990s with the help of international financial institutions. Licenses were given to two private cellular mobile phone companies. An independent regulatory authority was established in 1997, but its power was curtailed in 2001. Although KyrgyzTelekom made profits in 2000, privatization of 40 percent of the enterprise in 2000 failed because of unattractive conditions. The Kyrgyz Republic has low Internet connectivity, with only 3 percent of enterprises reporting Internet connections in a mid-1999 EBRD survey. In January 2002, a new tender was announced to select a consultant for KyrgyzTelekom privatization, and it is included in the list of firms to be privatized by 2003.

  • In number of telephone lines per capita, Uzbekistan still lags behind its neighbors, except for Tajikistan. In 2000, national and international providers were merged to form Uzbektelekom, owned by the Post and Telecommunications Agency, which will regulate the sector after privatization. In 2001, substantial investments in telecommunication with Japanese credits led to an increase in the number of digital lines. Interventionist tendencies remain, however, and in early 2001 licenses of private Internet providers were revoked.

  • In Tajikistan, telecommunications functions poorly, although the government is introducing reforms. Much of the infrastructure was destroyed in the 1990s by war or has deteriorated owing to lack of maintenance. The regulatory and operational functions are being separated, and an antimonopoly agency has been set up. A new telecommunications law in preparation aims to incorporate Tajiktelecom as a majority state-owned company. At present, however, telephones are a luxury enjoyed by the few people who have fixed line connections.

Other Utility and Infrastructure Services


The energy sector has been a major cause of resource misallocation, inefficient management, and corruption in the CIS-7 countries. Under the Soviet system, energy was cheap and energy use was much higher than in economies with similar income levels. Since independence, the power sector, through quasi-fiscal subsidies to energy consumers, has absorbed much of the social cost of abandoning central planning. While this situation facilitated control of the fiscal deficit and monetary stabilization and helped poor households, it also decapitalized the sector, which was rendered increasingly unattractive for privatization.

Over the longer term, negative consequences mounted. Quasi-fiscal deficits have proved difficult to manage and are a source of corruption. Using low energy prices and arrears as a social security measure is untargeted and discourages good management practices within the power sector. The situation is difficult to change, however, because powerful vested interests would lose from reforms and because bringing the social security element into the public budget would have negative short-run macroeconomic consequences.

A decade after independence, utility prices are still well below the long-run marginal cost (estimated by the EBRD to be around US$0.08 per kilowatt hour) in all the CIS-7 countries. Payment arrears and nonpayment are high. Without effective price signals, consumers do not adjust their consumption and economies remain far too energy-intensive for their income levels. The utilities are unattractive to either foreign or domestic purchasers, and under state control they continue to acquiesce in nonpayment when cutting off supply would be politically unpopular,

At the end of the 1990s, a window of opportunity opened briefly for privatization to foreign investors as companies such as Enron, AES, and Union Fenosa showed interest in investing in transition economies. Georgia and Moldova seized the opportunity. The window closed in 2001 with the collapse of Enron and the drop in other energy companies’ market values.

In Georgia, the Telasi power distribution company, which met 35 to 45 percent of national electricity demand, was privatized late in 1999 by sale to the U.S. power company AES. Of the 70 other electricity distribution companies, only 8 small ones were privatized, and the government subsequently consolidated all the remaining distribution companies outside Adjhara, South Ossetia, and Abkhazia into the Georgian United Distribution Company, for which it is seeking private management. In April 2002, electricity prices were raised substantially, with a higher rate for customers supplied by Telasi in recognition of the need for AES to recoup its new investments. Management of the retail energy sector has improved. But corruption and theft remain problems, and attempts to create a wholesale energy market have failed.

In Moldova, a majority shareholding in three of the five power distributors was sold to the Spanish company Union Fenosa in February 2000. In 2001, approval was granted for a new tender commission for privatizing the two remaining power distributors and three power stations, but in August the plans were postponed because of a legal dispute and lack of investor interest. In July 2001, Union Fenosa introduced a new system of payment collection, including the ability to cut power supplies for nonpayment, and subsequent collection rates have been close to 90 percent. Service has improved, with almost uninterrupted electricity supply in central and southern Moldova, although technical losses (i.e., sales revenue falling below costs, but with the budget balanced by government assistance) and theft remain problems. A majority share in Moldova’s monopoly gas supplier has been sold to Gazprom.

Elsewhere, the picture is of failed privatization plans. In Armenia, an international tender for the sale of four electricity distribution companies failed in April 2001 because investors saw the deal as risky and unattractive. In Azerbaijan, the government is committed to tighter budgetary control of utilities, eventual unification of domestic and exported oil prices, and privatization of all distribution networks, but a legal and regulatory framework is needed to protect public interest and encourage private investment. In March 2001, Siemens won the tender for a 25-year management contract for Baku Electricity Company, but the contract was never signed because the government would give no guarantee against nonpayment of bills.

Attempts to bring prices up to cost-recovery levels and to improve collection rates have had mixed results. The rate increases in Georgia and Moldova have been mentioned. The Kyrgyz Republic, after raising electricity tariffs 20 percent or more each year from 2000 to 2002, reduced the number of users eligible for special tariff reductions and modified the tariff structure to mitigate the impact of the price increase on the poor. Nevertheless, the average billed tariff in 2002 was still no more than half the cost-recovery level. In Tajikistan, average electricity tariffs were raised 70 percent in 2000, but were still at about one-third of cost recovery. Nonpayment and delays to tariff adjustments together with provision for bad debts of previous years amount to nearly 6 percent of GDP. In Azerbaijan, the energy sector’s deficit from supplying oil and gas to Azerenergy and Azerigaz at prices below cost, exacerbated by low collection rates, amounted to about 13 percent of GDP.19 As a result, the state oil company, SOCAR, accumulated large tax arrears. In 2002, the government agreed to write off some of SOCAR’s pre-2001 quasi-fiscal activities.

Other steps to improve the effectiveness of the energy sector are difficult to evaluate. In 2001, the Kyrgyz government divided state-owned Kyrgyzenergo into a generating company, a transmission company, and four distribution companies in order to increase transparency. Aggregate reported losses increased, and the complexity of in-kind collection and offsets became apparent. The distribution segments were deprived of capital as Kyrgyzenergo used its limited funds on maintenance of upstream facilities. In Tajikistan, new energy laws approved in October 2000 created a separate energy ministry, and an antimonopoly agency was set up to regulate the tariffs of public monopolies. In both the Kyrgyz Republic and Tajikistan, attracting investment to the power sector is a priority, but investments in hydroelectric power depend on a regional solution to the use of water resources in Central Asia.

Water and Wastewater Disposal

Some attempts to improve water provision and wastewater disposal have been made, but they have been very limited (see Table 4.2). In August 2001, Georgia signed a private management contract for the water supply market, which should increase cash collections. Armenia has recruited an international water operator to manage the Yerevan Water and Sewage Company under a four-year performance contract. Azerbaijan is planning to reform the water and wastewater systems in Baku. The World Bank has approved a $15 million program to construct running water systems in rural areas of the Kyrgyz Republic.

Centralized Heating

The centralized provision of heating is especially resistant to change. The system of district heating by uninsulated pipes from a central boiler is extremely inefficient, but winters are sufficiently severe in the CIS-7 countries for heating to be a basic need. Typical reform measures are merely stopgaps. The district heating networks in Moldova have been transferred from the central government to local governments. The district heating systems cover an ever-decreasing proportion of households and may simply be allowed to atrophy, but there is an equity dimension insofar as the centralized system provides heating for poor urban dwellers, who cannot afford to purchase alternative sources of heating for their homes.

Interconnections Among Structural Reforms

Although the key dimensions of structural reform have been treated separately, the interconnections are important. The uncertain status of land privatization discourages banks from lending to farmers who might offer land as a collateral. The significance of large-scale privatization, or its absence, goes far beyond the direct impact. The continuing importance of state-owned enterprises and of large companies with unchanged management has established vested interests that not only oppose further enterprise reform but have also been able to maintain soft budget constraints (mostly through tax and energy arrears) and to forestall reforms that would increase competition. This situation has had economywide effects through poor governance, stunted revenue sources and earmarked public expenditures, and inadequate infrastructure.

The feeble record of new enterprise creation in the CIS-7 countries is tied to the overall business environment and reflects lack of structural reform as well as inadequate protection of property rights and other governance issues. Changing the incentives of old enterprises, promoting the proper development of new ones, and establishing a positive and effective political economy of reform are interconnected.20 In practice, enterprise reform and facilitation of new entry have been complementary. However, the literature attempting to measure the relative impact of bureaucratic red tape, lack of finance and law and order, and other obstacles to entrepreneurship remains inconclusive. The evidence from the CIS-7 countries is unhelpful on this question, because there are too many obstacles and too few successes to identify significant empirical patterns.

Throughout the CIS-7 countries, a culture of nonpayment undermines respect for economic contracts, and the tradition of nondisclosure and tax avoidance impedes the spread of accounting and auditing to international standards. Quasi-fiscal subsidies (such as acquiescence in nonpayment of utility bills) helped poor households cope with the transitional recession of the first half of the 1990s but have become a wasteful approach to social security. A critical issue in the CIS-7 countries is the need to transfer social security provision from the energy sector to the general government budget.

Rebuilding the State

In the new independent countries, the state has faced many challenges in the transformation to meet the needs of a market economy. Some contributors to the econometric debate about growth in transition countries have argued that the collapse of state institutions is a key factor, with countries moving quickly and decisively to democracy (mainly Eastern Europe and the Baltics) or retaining the old authoritarianism (Belarus, China, and Uzbekistan) doing better than countries going through protracted constitutional change (Russia and Ukraine).21

How well are states doing at providing the core state functions for a market economy—guaranteeing property rights, providing sound money, addressing market failures? The major issues in the years immediately following the dissolution of the Soviet Union were state-building and monetary reform. All the CIS-7 countries experienced the hyperinflation of the ruble zone in 1991–93 and, after introducing national currencies, achieved monetary stability at differing rates. During the second half of the 1990s inflation was reduced, but not all countries have achieved sustained fiscal balance. Continuing macroeconomic imbalances also have been reflected in balance of payments deficits for all but Uzbekistan and in mounting external debt for most of the CIS-7 countries (Table 4.5).

Table 4.5.

Macroeconomic Sustainability Indicators as Shares of GDP, 2000

article image
Source: EBRD (2002b).

Revenues and Expenditures

Government revenues as a share of GDP vary considerably, but inadequate revenue is a major problem for most of the CIS-7 countries. Only Uzbekistan has managed to maintain public revenues and to keep public expenditures more or less in line with revenues (see Table 4.5), thanks to its success in maintaining and rebuilding state institutions, limited reform of the enterprise sector, and extraction of resources from a farm sector that produces a valuable staple export (cotton). In the Kyrgyz Republic and Moldova, state revenue collection has contracted, and expenditures have not been tailored to the reduced resources. Inflationary pressures are not under control, yet the governments find it difficult to reduce their expenditures in the face of high poverty levels and other demands. Azerbaijan’s oil wealth has enabled the country to avoid serious external debt, but government revenues remain low. In Georgia and Armenia, public revenues amounted to only 15 and 17 percent of GDP, respectively, in 2000, and both countries had substantial budget and current account deficits.

Some of the CIS-7 countries are working to boost public revenue or to reduce expenditures without reducing services, but it is difficult to assess the success of these efforts. Armenia is streamlining the tax system to lower the overall tax burden and reduce incentives for tax evasion. The small business tax code has been simplified, and the new tax code approved in December 2000 put corporate taxes on a progressive scale, with a 20 percent flat rate for large businesses. Budget revenues rose 20 percent in the first five months of 2001 over the same period in 2000, but fell in the second half of 2001, reflecting continuing collection difficulties. Georgia took steps in 2001 to improve revenue collection by reducing corruption among customs officials. Further steps to improve revenue collection included tests for tax officials, new procedures for monitoring tax officers, and changes to the tax code. The Kyrgyz Republic has focused on improving budgetary provisions and cutting costs (closing local offices, reducing duplication of services, cutting the workforce). And all the CIS-7 countries are implementing treasury and public accounts auditing systems.

An important challenge on the expenditure side has been to replace subsidies for loss-making enterprises and their employees with true adjustment assistance. A quick fix in the early transition era was to use quasi-fiscal measures such as energy or tax arrears to cushion the adjustment costs for individuals and enterprises, but this was an inefficient social assistance policy for households and it perpetuated soft budget constraints for enterprises. The philosophical prerequisite for shifting from subsidies to producers—replacing a worker orientation with a consumer orientation—is still a way off in the CIS-7 countries. Targeted social assistance funded out of general government revenue is superior to inegalitarian exemption from taxation or to indirect assistance provided in an untargeted manner by enterprises whose primary purpose should be efficient provision of services. Uzbekistan appears to be relatively advanced in dealing with arrears and in targeting social assistance from the state budget to those in need.

Also on the expenditure side, the state should provide primary health care and education, infrastructure, and law and order. Public expenditure on education has been highest in Uzbekistan (8 percent of GDP) and lowest in Armenia, Tajikistan, and Georgia (around 2 percent of GDP). Public expenditure on health has been low in all the CIS-7 countries, ranging from 4 percent in Moldova and Uzbekistan to less than 2 percent in Tajikistan, Azerbaijan, and Georgia.22

Figures for public expenditures on infrastructure and law and order are not readily available, but one area that is important to several of the CIS-7 countries is the maintenance of the irrigation systems on which much of agriculture depends. In Moldova, the share of irrigated land decreased from 49 percent in 1995 to 4 percent in 2000, as initial disorganization and then malfunctioning of the irrigation system amplified the impact of droughts in 1992, 1994, 1996, and 2000. In Tajikistan, obsolete irrigation systems contributed to the severity of the 2000 drought, the worst in 74 years, and are the proximate explanation for the much greater decline in cotton yields than in neighboring Uzbekistan.

Law and Order

In addition to safety from street crime and violence, in a market economy there is need for an effective judicial system to protect property rights.

Legal and judicial reform is difficult to measure. A study of five transition economies, including Georgia and the Kyrgyz Republic, found progress in the details rather than in the legislation or grand reform packages.23 The introduction of judicial qualification exams and higher salaries for judges had a dramatic effect on the independence and effectiveness of the judiciary in Georgia, while underpaid police officers were still levying arbitrary fines on motorists. According to the EBRD’s mid-1999 Business Environment and Enterprise Performance Survey, commercial courts are especially corrupt in Azerbaijan, the Kyrgyz Republic, and Moldova, even though the latter two are leaders in legislating judicial reform.

The EBRD’s legal transition indicators (Table 4.6) are based on assessments by participants (lawyers and academics) of the state of legal reform. They cover both the extent to which commercial law and financial regulations have reached internationally acceptable standards and the degree to which the laws are enforced. The legal transition indicators consistently show higher marks for extensiveness of legal transition than for the effectiveness of commercial law or financial regulations.

Table 4.6.

Legal Transition Indicators for the CIS-7 Countries, 2001

(EBRD index)

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Source: EBRD (2002b).Note: The measurement scale is from 1, little or no change, to 4+, representing the standards of an industrialized market economy.

Reservations about implementation apply to government services in general. By the EBRD measure of administrative corruption (bribe payments as a percentage of reporting firms’ annual revenue), 6 of the CIS-7 countries (Azerbaijan, the Kyrgyz Republic, Armenia, Georgia, and Moldova) ranked among the 6 worst of 20 transition economies.24 Tajikistan and Uzbekistan were not included in the 20, but bribe taking is believed to be extensive in both.

In Armenia, a high-level commission has been set up to fight corruption and bribery, reform the civil service, and increase the transparency of administrative procedures. In Azerbaijan, the Chamber of Accounts has authority to audit government agencies and publish its findings. Recent administrative reforms include merging key ministries, improving the effectiveness of the civil service, and transferring policymaking and regulatory functions from state enterprises to relevant ministries. A key implementation issue is the extent to which the state oil company and the Oil Fund operate at arm’s length from the government. In Georgia, a November 2000 anticorruption strategy aimed to establish fair and transparent tax rules, introduce a code of ethics and higher salaries for government workers, and strengthen the judiciary through tighter selection and testing criteria. The last point appears to have had some success, but there is widespread skepticism about the government’s commitment to fighting corruption.

Although the CIS-7 governments are all willing to acknowledge the existence of corruption and several have active anticorruption policies, corruption remains a major problem. Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index for 2002 included 4 of the CIS-7 countries among the 102 countries covered: Uzbekistan ranked 68, Georgia 85, Moldova 93, and Azerbaijan 95 (with a higher ranking indicating a higher perception of corruption).

The Shadow Economy and an Effective State

Whether an effective state has been created is difficult to establish empirically, but from an economic perspective one indicator is the extent of the shadow economy. Economic agents operating in the shadow economy have chosen to exit the official economy, presumably because the benefits from being in the official economy do not compensate for the restrictions and obligations. Explanations of the shadow economy typically focus on the desire to avoid taxes or burdensome regulations, but there are costs in terms of lost access to public services and the formal financial sector. In most of the CIS-7 countries, the burdens of discretionary regulation by corrupt officials are substantial and the benefits of an effective financial, legal, and social system are lacking, so the shadow economy flourishes (see Chapter 9).

All measures of the size of the shadow economy have weaknesses. The most common approach is to relate total output to some measure of inputs, and the shortfall of officially reported GDP from estimated GDP is ascribed to the shadow economy. Several such measures are reported in Table 4.7. They are roughly consistent in showing high levels of shadow economy activity in six of the CIS-7 countries and lower levels in Uzbekistan.

Table 4.7.

The Shadow Economy as a Share of Official GDP in the CIS-7, 1994–96

(In percent)

article image
Source: As noted in table: Lackó (1996); Johnson, Kaufman, and Shleifer (1997); Eilat and Zinnes (2002).Note: All the approaches reported here are based on electricity intensity, adjusted for changes in other inputs, economic structure, relative prices, and other factors. The absolute measures should be treated with caution, but as an ordinal ranking they provide a useful guide.

Numbers in parentheses are rankings among countries studied, from lowest to highest.

Creation of an effective state is the most difficult problem facing formerly centrally planned countries. In cross-country studies of transition economies’ performance, variables such as distance from Düsseldorf or years under Communism are correlated with growth, but they suffer from multicolinearity, which makes it difficult to isolate the nature of the Western transition economies’ edge. One dimension of that edge is successful state building. The CIS-7 countries, by contrast, include the transition economies that have gone through the most difficult experience of state building. Among the CIS-7 countries, Uzbekistan stands out as the most successful state builder, and it also enjoyed the best output performance as well.

Conclusions and Policy Recommendations for the Reform Agenda

Sustaining reform will depend on maintaining public support and overcoming the opposition of vested interests that benefit from the current system. The social sustainability of reform depends on the state’s ability to deliver social services and effective environmental protection The best formula for improving health, education, poverty relief, and pensions is economic growth, but without targeted assistance to disadvantaged groups during the growth process, governments face the danger that mounting dissatisfaction will derail progrowth reform.

The nonstate sector has led the recovery from the transitional recession. The process has been summarized in the two words encouragement and discipline.25 To generate private sector development as an engine of growth requires policies for encouraging entry of new firms and for privatizing and restructuring enterprises, so that they are subject to the discipline of hard budget constraints. In Azerbaijan and the Kyrgyz Republic, foreign investors have been crucial in facilitating exploitation of natural resources, but in other sectors and elsewhere in the CIS-7 countries direct foreign investment has been of minor importance. All CIS-7 governments are in favor of privatization and of small and medium-sized enterprises, but most faltered when it came to privatizing large state enterprises, and few have created a truly favorable environment for start-up businesses. The role of the financial sector in facilitating or obstructing new enterprise formation is likely to be important, but in the CIS-7 countries effective financial intermediation is still in the future.

The twin themes of this chapter are that structural reform has been taking place in the CIS-7 countries, albeit patchily and often slowly, but that to be successful it requires an effective state to provide infrastructure, law and order, and other services. These prerequisites are more important than specific reform policies, but that does not mean that the reforms do not matter. The incentives for participating in the official economy are still inadequate in all the CIS-7 countries, and a shadow economy flourishes in six of them. Although the shadow economy may have played a positive role in the early stages of transition, acting as a safety valve or coping mechanism as the official economy collapsed, a shadow economy can become self-propagating and limiting of long-term growth. There is strong evidence from Eastern Europe that, once the prerequisites for a functioning official economy are in place, countries adopting deeper structural reforms faster tend to be rewarded with superior economic performance.


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