03 December 2005

Rights and the Economy

In my discussions with the law students, it's come up several times that human rights have to be repressed right now in Kyrgyzstan because it is more important to focus on economic growth right now. I know this is a common misperception in many countries, but it's been interesting to see it firsthand.

When I asked the students why they thought repressing human rights would help the economy, they say that the people of Kyrgyzstan lack discipline and are not ready for a full list of human rights.

I worry for Kyrgyzstan. The students tell me that the best thing they can do is be patient and patriotic and in 15 years, things will be better. I don't see any reason to think the people will be much better off financially in 15 years unless there are some significant changes. Certainly the last 15 years haven't gone very well, and I don't see Bakiev doing anything to change the course now despite all the promises.

There are lots of problems. Corruption is a contributor, but the students, and others I've asked here, tell me that corruption cannot be changed until the economy improves. From my perspective, corruption contributes a great deal to the poor economy and fighting it would only help. And I do not agree that corruption is a sign of a poor economy. Plenty of wealthy people in Kyrgyzstan accept bribes; in fact they usually get the best bribes.

There is far too much government regulation (which contributes to the corruption). It can be very difficult to get the necessary approval to start a new business or get a loan. Loans have horrendous interest rates; most would say it is a great risk to lend money here, but there have been examples of banks being very successful giving loans with smaller interest rates.

Almost all the people begging on the streets are old. They almost never ask for money; they just sit or stand quietly and wait. They always thank you. These pensioners have been waiting for 15 years already for things to improve and they cannot wait another 15 years. I'm no economist (nor would I care to be), but Kyrgyzstan's course cannot be the right one.

1 comment:

  1. It makes you wonder how many 15 year cycles will have to go by before someone (group) of people decide enough is enough. Hopefully not too many.

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