Academic journal article Demokratizatsiya

From Stabilization to Marketization: The Political Economy of Reforms in Azerbaijan

Academic journal article Demokratizatsiya

From Stabilization to Marketization: The Political Economy of Reforms in Azerbaijan

Article excerpt

(ProQuest: ... denotes formulae omitted.)

Introduction

Since gaining its independence in 1991, Azerbaijan has started to implement marketoriented reform policies. The transition to the new political-economic order has not been smooth, but instead accompanied by political cataclysms and military conflicts. The World Bank classified Azerbaijan as a war-torn country with a semidemocratic political regime.1

The literature on the political economy of transition has grown considerably in the last decade because of the reality of the problem and uncertainty about the future of market reforms throughout the former Soviet states. Various concepts of interconnection between politics and economic reforms have been developed and regional and country explanations of the transition of post-Communist countries.

The first question I discuss in this article is: What does "market reform" mean? Because of Shafiqul Islam's clear explanation of the market-reform process, I will follow his theory, which claims there are four interlocking wheels in the transition vehicle: macroeconomic stabilization, liberalization, privatization of the economy, and development of marketsupporting institutional infrastructure.2 The last three wheels he grouped together under the label of "marketization." He also discusses other concepts and theories of political economy of post-Communist transition.

However, I focus on how political changes have affected the reform process in Azerbaijan during transition. The trajectory of the post-Communist transition in Azerbaijan can be roughly divided into three stages: (1) first years of independence (1991-94), the state of nature; (2) powerful autocratic regime and stabilization (1994-2003), the state of Heydar Aliyev; and (3) Heydar Aliyev's death and the election of his son Ýlham Aliyev as the new president (post-2003), the post-Heydar Aliyev state. I review all three stages of political development in Azerbaijan and their effects on market reforms, particularly the marketization process. Measures of nominal political stability and market reforms are obtained using the mix of qualitative and quantitative methods and then analyzed. In the end, I show how the centralization of power was helpful in one dimension of reforms-stabilization-but has been an impediment for the other dimension-marketization. Moreover, this article claims that once centralized, it is extremely difficult for a political-economic system in transition to undergo decentralization.

Finally, I propose and discuss further public policy steps and examine the "three I's" approach to addressing issues of a post-Communist transition.

The Political Economy of Post-Communist Transition

First, we must define "market reform" and "transition." According to Adam Przeworski, market-oriented reforms are reforms that aim "to organize an economy that rationally allocates resources and in which the state is financially solvent."3 Islam highlights four "interlocking wheels" of market-oriented reforms: macroeconomic stabilization, liberalization, privatization, and institutional reforms.4

Joan Nelson has examined an unprecedented case of "simultaneous economic and political transformation" that has characterized transitional reforms.5 All newborn countries have had to pass through this dual transformation, but each has chosen various policies and has had different results. In short, economic reforms progressed successfully in countries where wealth was distributed more or less equally and there was political consolidation within the society.6

These issues have to do with the role of ex ante and ex post political constraints in the transition experience. If the former deals with the feasibility and acceptability of reforms, the latter refers to the danger of backlash and reversal after decisions are made and outcomes are observed.7 Joel Hellman argues that although post-Communist countries have not suffered from the standard ex ante and ex post constraints to reform, "they have faced an equally difficult set of challenges from an unexpected source;" the political obstacles were the most challenging. …

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