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Exploring the Effects of Privatization in Europe: a Comparative Analysis of the Political-Economic Development of the Baltics, Central and Eastern European Post-Socialist States – Survey of the Shock Therapy vs. Gradualist Approaches

Student: Thomas matthew Yenichek

Supervisor: Andrey N. Scherbak

Faculty: Saint-Petersburg School of Social Sciences and Area Studies

Educational Programme: Comparative Politics of Eurasia (Master)

Year of Graduation: 2019

At the core of the debate on post-socialist reform is the speed of the reforms, so – what then actually affects the speed of reforms? All of the countries in this sample began their reform process with the same goals in mind: to attempt to privatize and restructure their economies as per the advice and standards of the IMF and World Bank – how then did some countries prove to privatize more than half of their state-controlled enterprise sectors in significantly less time than others? This study seeks to answer this question by exploring the processes of each state and the dynamics between reform parties and legacy socialist parties as well as other competing political or societal pressures present at the time of reform. The method of systematic process analysis, or process tracing, is used to investigate and analyze the causal mechanisms at play between the independent variable of speed of privatization and the dependent variable(s) of economic performance and societal well-being as measured by the Human Development Index (HDI). The findings include evidence in support of the Shock Therapy theory over that of Gradualism, whereupon it is shown that the states which achieved the largest amount of privatization during the period under study also exhibit the highest ratings of HDI. Those states which exhibited popular support for the reform process, had access to foreign capital and investment, and did not face overwhelming political pushback from legacy socialist elements achieved a more or less fast and successful transition. Implications are stated and factors important to the successful implementation of each approach, as gleaned from the application of process tracing on the causal threads linking the domestic/international actors, institutions and societal dynamics at work during the attempted implementations of the various reform plans undertaken in each country, are expounded on.

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