The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) in London was the setting on 19 June 2012 for the launch of the recent UNU-WIDER book Economies in Transition: The Long-Run View, edited by Gerard Roland, and published by Palgrave Macmillan.
The event kicked off with a panel discussion chaired by Erik Berglof, EBRD's Chief Economist, along with Gerard Roland (University of California at Berkeley), Andre Sapir (Bruegel), and Rania Al-Mashat (Central Bank of Egypt). The main findings of the UNU-WIDER research project on transition economies--initiated in 2009 on the twentieth anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall--were presented in detail, focussing on the long-term development of the former Soviet bloc and parts of Central Asia. Topical issues included institutional development, employment, demographic trends, education, health, fertility rates, the role of civil society, as well as the future economic prospects of the transition economies.
In the two decades and more since the fall of the Berlin Wall the former centrally planned economies have taken somewhat different paths to becoming free market economies. Most of the Central European countries have successfully achieved economic transition and democracy and many are now in the fold of the EU, although they face difficulties in today's financial crisis. In contrast much of the Soviet Union is characterized by either fragile democracy or authoritarianism--the Baltic states being a notable exception. There is a wide variance in the quality of institutions across the transition countries, and this influences, and interacts with, their political and economic capabilities. Inequality is a concern in the transition group. The distribution of wealth and income has become very similar to more established market economies, with increasing disparities between the high- and low-income groups and large-scale privatization mostly...