Reîntoarcerea unor elemente caracteristice ale comunismului sub forma suprareglementărilor UE:
|Václav Klaus (în stânga), 1992|
We considered economic and political reforms to be interconnected and indivisible. To separate them à la China was, in Central and Eastern Europe, impossible. The unrealistic concept of gradualism was (and is) based on the belief in the possibility of a detailed programme of reform. It would have been, however, possible only in the absence of political freedom, which was not our case.
We knew that the transformation project had to be ours, based on our ideas and realities. We did not consider ourselves representatives of international institutions and we did not feel any reason to please them. We tried to find our own "Czech way" and to give the people a chance to be part of the game, not just passive observers.
The decisive part of the transformation process was massive, wholesale privatisation. In our case, it was based on several ideas:
- Our goal was to privatise practically all the existing state-owned firms, not just to allow the setting up of new firms on "green fields".
- Swift privatisation was considered to be the best contribution to the much-needed restructuring of inefficient state-owned firms (we did not believe in the ability of the government to restructure the firms prior to privatisation).
- Privatisation of firms in the real economy couldn't wait for the completion of bank privatisation (it had to go in parallel).
- Because of the lack of domestic capital (which did not exist in the Communist era) and because of the very limited number of serious potential foreign investors, firms had to be privatised at a low price. This idea led us to the concept of "voucher privatisation", which played an important, but not dominant, role in our country which is often misunderstood. Less than a quarter of the Czech privatisation programme was carried out by means of vouchers.
From the very beginning, we knew we had to privatise the economy we inherited as quickly as possible. We did not want to leave our shortly-to-be-privatised-firms in a pre-privatisation limbo in which they would rapidly lose their value. For that reason, we did not have any great interest in the maximisation of the proceeds of privatisation. The speed of privatisation was seen as an asset, not a liability.
At the same time, we liberalised, deregulated and desubsidised the economy radically and quickly. This liberalising tendency lasted, to our great regret, for only part of the last 25 years. Partly because of the slowing of our own reform momentum (for domestic political reasons), but mostly because of our applying to and finally entering the EU, we started a reverse process. That is why our economy is more regulated and subsidised (and harmonised and standardised) now than 10-15 years ago. The final blow came with the recent financial and economic crisis, and with the methods of its "treatment" by means of very extensive government intervention.
Our economy is now more regulated and subsidised than we imagined at the time of the collapse of the fall of Communism. We did not believe it could ever happen. It seemed to us that the masterminding of the economy from above was so discredited by the Communist experience that it could never return. We were wrong.
We also assumed that everyone understood that government failure is inevitably much bigger than any imaginable market failure, that the visible hand of the state is always much more dangerous than the invisible hand, and that vertical relations in society must be less productive (and less democratic) than horizontal relations. Again, we were wrong.
Twenty-five years ago, I warned against creating a negative expectations-reality gap because it would have undermined our reform process. I have to accept that I myself feel such a huge expectation-reality gap now. I expected to live in a much more free and democratic society and economy than is the case today.
It was caused partly by the victory of social democracy in our country and partly by the importing of the European economic system, with its overregulation, high taxation and redistribution, welfare state, and fascination with all kinds of anti-market measures, connected nowadays mostly with environmentalism, with its anti-democratic social ideology which successfully hides its real substance while pretending to care about nature, the environment and our Blue Planet. We may be oversensitive in this respect because of our long Communist experience but we see many similar phenomena, tendencies, ambitions and arguments around us today.
To allow this to happen means that we have learned nothing from history, and especially from the Communist era. It means that celebrating the end of Communism is inappropriate. It is creeping back in different forms, under different flags and slogans, without sufficient resistance from us.
Standpoint magazine, published December 14, 2014.
This is an edited text of a speech of Václav Klaus to mark "25 Years after the Berlin Wall" at an IEA/ASI event in London on November 10, 2014.