Ukraine's Economic Reform: Obstacles, Errors, Lessons

Article excerpt

Raphael Shen. Ukraine's Economic Reform: Obstacles, Errors, Lessons. (Westport, CT: Praeger, 1994). xii, 214 pp. Tables. References. Index. $59.95, cloth.

This book, a succinct and reasonably comprehensive treatment of Ukraine's economic reform, evaluates the difficulties of the government's efforts in this sphere since 1991. In Shen's view, the bureaucratic institutions inherited from the Soviet Union, a set of poorly-conceived economic policies, and a pattern of production ill-equipped to adapt swiftly to a global market combined to produce an economic crisis by 1993, which President Leonid Kuchma has attempted to reverse since his election in 1994. Although the author is optimistic about Ukraine's long term prospects, he considers political opposition from Ukraine's parliament to be a continued impediment to the implementation of a coherently designed reform.

Written from a policy perspective, the book will likely be appreciated most by specialists in the economics of postcommunist transitions, and by readers who seek an accessible explanation of Ukraine's tentative steps towards market reform. The book attempts to outline the flaws of the haphazard pre-1993 reform strategy, calling the readers' attention to the strengths of the Ukrainian economy (such as its agricultural potential) and its weaknesses (its chronic dependence on foreign energy sources). These features, in the author's view, highlight the importance of a reform strategy that is informed by the lessons of economic theory and by the examples of other countries, but which is geared towards Ukraine's unique needs. Separate chapters are devoted to topics such as privatization, banking and fiscal policy, while a conclusion ties the various components together. Other models of postcommunist reform, e.g., Poland's, are incorporated to illuminate the case study. The author draws on a substantial number of interviews with Ukrainian officials in order to substantiate his arguments.

Ukrainian specialists may find the book disappointing in some respects. Although the author's introductory chapters on history and politics aspire to enhance our understanding of Ukraine's economy, they are rather cursory, and do not always match the subject matter as well as they could. …