August 18, 2004


Communism still haunts east Europe (Robin Shepherd, 8/17/2004, UPI)

Obviously, no one could doubt the countries of central and eastern Europe have made huge strides since the end of communism. Compared with basket cases like Belarus and Turkmenistan, the Czech Republic and Poland look as though they are on different planets.

The transition in central and eastern Europe has certainly been successful. But this does not mean it is complete. Consider, for starters, the following observations about the adult populations of the region: every single adult who was born here was born under communism, the vast majority of adults knew nothing else until they were in their 20s or 30s, and a clear majority of all adults in the region have spent most of their adult and all of their childhood lives under communism.

The demographic breakdown on its own would therefore suggest caution to those ready to proclaim an end to the transition process. The legacy of attitudes and impressions from the communist era may well continue to feed through, in a variety of ways, for many years to come.

In more concrete terms, absolute economic performance will not match Western standards for decades. One study by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development predicted it would take, on average, 20 to 30 years for income per capita across central and eastern Europe even to reach 75 percent of the level enjoyed by the old, 15-member European Union.

Foreign investors in the region, while acknowledging big improvements, still complain about the difficulties of establishing a viable supply chain for their operations. The banking system is still far from offering its clients, domestic or corporate, the kind of services taken for granted in the West. Getting a mortgage, for example, in most countries still requires a 60 percent down payment. Compare that with the 95 to 100 percent mortgages routinely offered out in countries such as Britain, and you get a clear sense of just how different life expectations can be for ordinary people in the former communist countries of the east of Europe.

Economic hardships flowing from the communist legacy continue, naturally, to have an impact on the political system.

A helpful reminder for those befuddled souls who think Middle Eastern reform is going slower than it should. It also suggests a movie rental for this weekend: Goodbye! Lenin, James Bowman's review of which captures the film's brilliance precisely.

Posted by Orrin Judd at August 18, 2004 8:38 PM

Remember that God Almighty, Creator of the Universe and Moses his Prophet, had march the Jews around the desert for 40 years to shake off the balefull effects of slavery. All wisdom is found in the Torah.

Posted by: Robert Schwartz at August 19, 2004 2:29 AM

Rented Goodbye! Lenin last weekend and also highly recommend it.

Posted by: Rick T. at August 19, 2004 9:10 AM