First published: December 1999
Ten years after 1989, the consequences of the re-introduction of capitalism into Eastern Europe are clear and acknowledged even by some of the international agencies which sponsored the process.
The World Bank reports in its 1999 World Development Indicators: ‘In 1989 about 14 million people in the transition economies were living under a poverty line of $4 a day. By the mid-1990s that number was about 147 million, one person in three. The distribution of income in the communist period was relatively egalitarian, primarily because of a relatively flat wage distribution, but also because of the virtual absence of income from property and the redistribution of income through social transfers… Today, some eight years later, income distribution has worsened sharply, particularly in the former Soviet Union… the stress is showing in the declining or stagnating life expectancy and sharply worsening adult mortality. Today, for example, the probability that a 15-year-old Ukrainian male will survive until his sixtieth birthday is a mere 65 per cent, down from 72 per cent in 1980. The Europe and Central Asia region is the only part of the developing world with rising adult mortality rates. Even Sub-Saharan Africa, with its AIDS epidemic, is seeing a reduction in adult mortality.’