Public Opinion and Economic Reforms

Dátum: 05.03.2002

After a decade of mostly macroeconomic reforms in Central and Eastern Europe, the most advanced of the post-communist economies (Visegrad Four countries) have been transformed into fairly standard market-based systems. While the first part of the decade involved substantial costs for the citizens, in the past few years the living standards have started to improve rapidly for the most people in the region. Yet the citizens in these countries continue to express profound disappointment with the changes after the 1989 events. Temporary drastic economic decline seems to have given rise to a permanent public pessimism about the state and future of transition countries. The public shows little trust in policy-makers promoting further reforms (e.g. of the pension, education or healthcare systems). Rather, often times it is the politicians who simply echo the general pessimism and the mood of constant complaining that gain in popularity.

Aims of the Project

The aim of the "Public opinion and economic reforms" Project is to look for answers to the following questions: Does public opinion play a major role in deciding the fate of economic and social reforms, as the theorists of the political economy of transition have assumed since early 1990s? If it does, how is it shaped? How justified is the current ‘bad mood’ inflicting the post-communist populations? And what are its social and economic consequences? Is the much-needed welfare systems reform possible regardless of the general pessimism? Finally, and most crucially, what should the pro-reform policy-makers do under such circumstances?

Activities undertaken so far

A. Public opinion poll about the perception of main macroeconomic indicators by citizens

The poll carried out for INEKO by the MVK poll agency at the end of January 2002 shows that the Slovaks‘ perception of the economy is rather biased Рtowards pessimism. Slovaks are apparently better off than they would admit publicly (also see the detailed analysis of the poll results together with the questions asked ).

B. "Public Opinion and Economic Reforms" Conference organized by INEKO and the Institute for Public Affairs (IVO) in Bratislava, March 11, 2002 The impact of pessimism on the course of reforms was analyzed in essays by economists, sociologists and political scientists from Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Poland and Hungary

For more information please contact: Gabriel Šípoš, INEKO