TBILISI — Discussions at the fifth annual European Resource Bank today turned to the question of how to implement radical reforms, and what we can learn from previous success stories such as Estonia. A panel titled, “Reforms need more than sound economics,” expressed the view that legislators of new democracies need to put forward a moral vision when undertaking serious reforms, and further to that, they need to bankrupt the previously dominating communist ideology.
Communism and socialism have dominated the social, political, cultural and philosophical space in large parts of the world, and continue to gain traction under the mistaken belief that their foundations were fundamentally right, but were just implemented incorrectly. CATO’s Tom Palmer and Estonia’s former Prime Minister Mart Laar were just two speakers to put forward compelling strategies for reform-minded legislators, with Laar stressing that policymakers “need the courage to do the right thing.”
A lot has been said (and speculated) about Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili in the international press. But no one can doubt the path of free market-based economic reforms he has steered Georgia down since his election, and the successes it has garnered for Georgia.
Among many notable achievements for this open and vibrant economy is a very healthy banking sector, an extremely welcoming visa regime and low business and personal taxes. This did not happen in isolation of Saakashvili’s commitment to ridding the country of communism once and for all and his vision for a country integrated in the Euro Atlantic community. Laar may well have been referring to Saakashvili when he was talking about politicians who have the courage to do the right thing.