Annual Economic Freedom of the World Conferences
Economic Freedom of the World Network Conference in Wroclaw, Poland, September 30 to October 2, 2009
The 2009 Economic Freedom of the World Network Annual Conference was held in Wroclaw, Poland, September 30 - October 2. This event was organized by The Adam Smith Research Centre (ASRC), Poland, and The Fraser Institute, Canada. It was hosted by the City of Wroclaw.
The meeting commemorated two important dates: the 20th Anniversary of the Polish Solidarity-led political victory that ended communism in Poland and paved the road to the consequent fall of the Berlin Wall and the 20th Anniversary of the Adam Smith Research Centre, the first independent think tank in this part of Europe after the long night of Communism.
The conference theme was "Economic Freedom in Times of Crises". Economic freedom rests on institutions and policies that have been and will continue to be affected by the current economic crisis. Participants at the meeting assessed this influence as it stands now and looked forward to future developments. Among the questions considered were: Is this crisis unique, as some claim, leading us into a new post-capitalist era? What would this mean to economic freedom and its measured level? Does the present situation alter what we have established in our freedom-related research over the past twenty years?
Some of the answers may lie in history: single economies, groups of countries, or even whole regions have experienced what may be called economic crises in their past. Some 20 years ago, the conference host, Poland along many other nations plunged into a deep political and economic abyss that marked the end of communism. These countries stood at the crossroads of history. They could have suppressed their peoples' aspirations to economic freedom or let them flourish. Many options, paths, ideologies were then open. But, Poland and many other nations chose the route to economic freedom and freedom in general, although progress at times was halting.
As well, in another case study participants found insightful, the 2009 edition of the Economic Freedom of the World report included new research on the likely impact of the global recession on levels of economic freedom by Jakob de Haan, Jan-Egbert Sturm, and Eelco Zandberg.
The study looked at banking crises that took place in Norway and Sweden during the 1990s and found that although economic freedom may decline in the short term in response to crises, over a longer time, economic freedom has a tendency to increase after a banking crisis. In the case of Norway and Sweden, the banking crisis did not distract these countries from continuing with their market-based reform policies.
This provides hope that any losses in economic freedom in the current crisis will be quickly regained. However, the authors warn that regional crises are not directly comparable to the current global crisis.
Speakers included: Michael Walker (Fraser Foundation), Prof. Witold Kwaśnicki (University of Wroclaw), Andrei Illarionov (Cato Institute), Marek Kaduczak (European Commission), Detmar Doering (Liberal Institute of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom), Emmanuel Martin (Atlas Foundation), Fred McMahon (Fraser Institute), and Ian Vasquez, (Cato Institute).
Economic Freedom of the World Network Conference, in Rio de Janeiro, November 12 to 14, 2008
The 2008 meeting of the Economic Freedom of the World Network was held in Rio de Janeiro, November 12‐14, 2008, at the Hotel Windsor Excelsior. The meeting was hosted by the Instituto Liberal, Brazil, Friedrich‐Naumann‐Stiftung für die Freiheit, Brazil, and the Fraser Institute, Canada. It was sponsored by Friedrich‐Naumann‐Stiftung für die Freiheit, Brazil.
The meeting, on the theme "Liberty and Property Rights", tackled one of the world's great problems: How to build and encourage liberty and property rights.
This discussion was particularly pertinent for Brazil and Latin America as a whole. Brazil itself is emerging as a regional super-power and a global player. But like most of Latin America, Brazil faces immense challenges. Key to its future success will be establishing personal liberty and property rights on which liberty is ultimately founded. Property rights free individuals from dependence on government and over‐arching government power. Only then can individuals fully express their freedom in other realms.
Property rights are also essential in unlocking the entrepreneurship - the drive and ingenuity of individuals and families - that is a sure route to increased prosperity. Prosperity, itself, and the stability it brings, are also handmaidens of both liberty and democracy. Unfortunately, property rights are problematic throughout Latin America and this creates a roadblock to further advancement in building liberty and prosperity.
The meeting was kicked off by a dinner hosted by Friedrich-Naumann-Stiftung für die Freiheit. The dinner was addressed by Mr. Rolf Berndt, Executive Chairman of the Foundation and Otto Guevara, Costa Rica, President of RELIAL, the association of Latin American liberal think tanks.
The next morning the delegates were welcomed by the hosts: Arthur Chagas Diniz, President, Instituto Liberal, Brazil, Uli Wacker, Director Regional, América Latina Fundación Friedrich Naumann para la Libertad, Fred McMahon, Director, Centre for Globalization Studies, Fraser Institute, Canada, and Paulo Antonio Uebel, Diretor-Executivo do Instituto Millenium, Brazil.
A number of important topics were addressed at the meeting, including: an "Overview of the Economic Freedom of the World: 2008 Annual Report", by principal author, Dr. James Gwartney; "Property Rights, Uncertainty and Economic Development", Dr. Michael Walker, President, Fraser Institute Foundation and Senior Fellow at The Fraser Institute; "Liberty and Property Rights: the way toward human development", Paulo Antonio Uebel, Diretor-Executivo do Instituto Millenium, Brazil; "Property Rights in Venezuela: A Decade of Violations and Changes", Dr. Rafael Alfonzo, CEDICE (Centro de Divulgación del Conocimiento Económico para la Libertad), Venezuela ; "Looking Forward: Property Rights and Rule of Law", Dr. Hugo Maul, CIEN (Centro de Investigaciones Económicas Nacionales), Guatemala; "Property Rights: Case Studies" with Paulo Antonio Uebel, Diretor-Executivo do Instituto Millenium, Brazil, Prof. Hannes Gissurarson, University of Iceland, Iceland, and Mr. Juan Carlos Hidalgo, Project Coordinator for Latin America Center for Global Liberty and Prosperity, Cato Institute.
Economic Freedom of the World Network Conference in Budva, Montenegro from October 17 to 19, 2007
On October 17-19, the annual Economic Freedom of the World conference was held in Budva, Montenegro. The conference was organized by the Center for Entrepreneurship and Economic Development (CEED), a think tank in Montenegro, and The Fraser Institute, and was sponsored by the Montenegrin Investment Promotion Agency (MIPA). About 40 participants from North America, Western Europe, and Eastern Europe attended the event.
The conference focused on institutions, economic freedom, and the rule of law. It was evident from the various presentations that, in terms of economic reforms, Eastern Europe has made significant improvements since the collapse of the Soviet Union. For example, most nations in the region have been reducing personal income taxes or adopting low flat tax rates, cutting tariff rates, stabilizing their currencies, and opening up their credit markets.
However, many of the nations in the region achieved currency stability through currency boards or by pegging their local currencies to other more stable currencies. Countries like Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Estonia, and Lithuania, for example, all have currency boards, whereas Montenegro, for instance, adopted the Euro.
By the end of the meeting, it was also evident that the region has a long way to go if it is to become a vibrant and flourishing free market economy. While most of the nations in Eastern Europe have reduced personal income taxes, payroll taxes remain unchanged. Changing the personal income tax rates was relatively easier than changing the payroll tax rates as the latter requires reforming the entire social security system to which the payroll taxes are linked. Such a reform would involve adjusting pension systems, unemployment insurance, and health insurance.
Lastly and perhaps most importantly, it was evident that there has been little improvement in the rule of law. This is likely the most fundamental failure of the region. A country can have low income taxes and low tariff rates, but without the rule of law-i.e., the enforcement of contracts, an impartial court system, and an independent judiciary-the benefits of these reforms are limited.
The rule of law is essential to the protection of property and security of contract, both of which are cornerstones of a market economy. If the powerful can steal property or violate contracts at will, no one but the powerful can build businesses, and thus the powerful can deprive the masses of economic freedom. Economic freedom and opportunity are also crippled if the enforcement of contracts or property rights involves long delays or bribes, or if it runs up against incompetence.
The conference participants applauded regional leaders for their courageous reforms so far, but also urged them to undertake the remaining reforms necessary for economic growth and prosperity.
The conference officially ended with The Fraser Institute giving an Adam Smith tie and scarf, as a small and symbolic token of our appreciation, to the local co-host Ms. Dragana Radevic, Executive Director of the Center for Entrepreneurship and Economic Development, and conference sponsor, Dr. Petar Ivanovic, CEO of the Montenegrin Investment Promotion Agency, for not only their great work on the conference but also for their efforts and perseverance in pushing for economic reforms in Montenegro.
Economic Freedom of the World Network Conference in San Jose, Costa Rica, from November 3 to 4, 2006
The 2006 Economic Freedom of the World Network meeting in Costa Rica focused on the important subject of the rule of law in Latin America. (For further details, please click on the communiqué and press release issued by the meeting on the rule of law and other aspects of economic freedom in Latin America.)
The meeting was a tremendous success. We would all like to thank Dr. Rigoberto Stewart, Executive Director of Costa Rica's Institute for Liberty and Policy Analysis (Instituto para la Libertad y el Análisis de Política - INLAP), for a tremendous job in organizing the meeting. It was much enjoyed for both the high quality of the presentations and its social aspects. We would also like to thank the remaining members of the INLAP's team - Dan Spitzer, Juan Ricardo Fernández, Maribel Herrera and Ana Ivelis Chacón- for their assistance.
Much of the conference dealt with the false perception that Latin America implemented deep market reforms in the 1990s, and the impact of the actual reality of the failure to reform. As the communiqué states: "A failure to implement market-based reforms and embrace the rule of law has resulted in a lost decade for most Latin American nations."
"The network's research conclusively dispels the myth that Latin America moved to market reform and that market reform failed to produce results for the region. Instead, the research shows the region never had a sustained reform effort and most dangerously, has failed to establish the rule of law. Limited reforms were attempted in the first half of the 1990s but these were too restricted and too short lived to have much effect."
"Despite this, nations that have built the strongest market economies have done considerably better than those where reform has failed to take hold. The nations with the four highest economic freedom scores in Latin America - Chile, Panama, El Salvador, and Costa Rica - have average per capita GDP that is 19.2 per cent higher than in 1995. This is more than five times the average growth of 3.7 per cent of the four worst performers, Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, and Guyana."
The meeting was held in San José, Costa Rica, on November 2-4, 2006.
Economic Freedom of the World Network Conference in Muscat, Oman, November 20 to 21, 2005
The Economic Freedom of the World Network meeting in Muscat, Oman, held from November 20 to 21, 2005, was a tremendous success.
Our sincere thanks go to our host, the International Research Foundation (IRF) of Oman, for making this meeting one of our most successful and memorable ones.
Special thanks must go to the team organizing the event, Sheikha Al Farsi and in particular we wish to acknowledge Salem Ben Nasser Al Ismaily, Executive President of OCIPED, for inviting us to Oman and for his continuing support of our work in the region.
We would also like to thank our sponsors -- The Omani Centre for Investment Promotion and Export Development (OCIPED), Bank Muscat, National Bank of Oman, Oman Arab Bank and Omantel-- without whom this conference would not be possible.
The discussions focused on case studies of countries on how they moved on the economic freedom front and what are the lessons/consequences from the process. We had stimulating and thought-provoking presentations from Oman, Kenya, Mongolia, Costa Rica, Zambia, and Slovakia, to name a few.
On the night of November 20, the IRF hosted the Economic Freedom of the Arab World Awards, based on the Economic Freedom of the Arab World report. Awards were presented to those Arab countries which have highest levels of economic freedom. This was definitely one of the most glamorous gala dinners we have had during our conferences. The exceptional hospitality and delicious food were symbolic and representative of Oman and its people.
The meeting was also a great opportunity not only to renew old friendships but also to make the new ones with participants from the region. Many thanks to our host, once again, for organizing the reception, which took place in tents at Al Bustan Palace and where traditional Omani food was served, and the tour of Muttrah Souk (old shopping market)which gave us some insight into the Omani culture and history.
Economic Freedom of the World Network Conference in Bratislava, Slovakia, from October 15 to 17, 2003
All of us must thank our hosts, the F. A. Hayek Foundation and its executive director Ján Oravec and Dr. Ivona Holzerova, project co-coordinator. They organized a terrific meeting for work and socially. We had fascinating discussions on the problems and solutions facing transition economies - those that are moving from non-free to free economies. The discussions focused on Central and Eastern Europe and Muslim nations.
Jim Gwartney and Bob Lawson explained the advances they are making in measuring economic freedom and describing its impact, particularly through impressive new work on investment.
Finally and, for many, not least: this was another opportunity to renew old friendships and make new ones. Our hosts made sure the atmosphere was conducive. They organized a delightful reception on the opening evening, followed by a glittering banquet the following night, and a fascinating walking tour of Bratislava on the last day.
We hope to see everyone at the 2004 meeting in Africa. We should be able to send out information shortly.
Conference participants gather for a group photo after a day of discussions.
Ján Oravec (fourth from the left), Executive Director of the F. A. Hayek Foundation, giving a presentation on economic reforms in Slovakia over the last decade.
Discussion in the conference room (from left to right--Michael Walker, Executive Director of the Fraser Institute, Robert Lawson, co-author of the Economic Freedom of the World Reports, and James Gwartney, lead author of the Economic Freedom of the World Reports).
Salem Ben Nasser Al Ismaily, Executive President of the Omani Centre for Investment Promotion and Export Development (OCIPED), and Michael Walker, Executive Director of the Fraser Institute.
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