January 6, 2017 Print

The Economic Freedom Audit is a series of events held in different countries around the world, aiming to bring together leading figures from the policy, political, media, business and academic world in order to identify positive reforms that would lead each country to a higher degree of economic freedom as measured by the Fraser Institute’s “Economic Freedom of the World” index. Economic Freedom Audits have been held recently in Greece, Uruguay, Venezuela, and Serbia, each applying sound economic analysis to long-troubled economies.


Greece

Greece has been at the forefront of public policy debates for almost eight years. The country has changed governments six times and lost almost 30 percent of its real GDP since 2008, and has been in continuous debt negotiations with the European Union, the International Monetary Fund, and the European Central Bank. It might seem strange that under these circumstances the Center for Liberal Studies (formerly known as Liberty Forum of Greece) would organize a workshop with a “Greek Tiger” as its primary theme.

The Center for Liberal Studies held its Economic Freedom Audit for Greece in Athens on Dec. 9, in partnership with the Fraser Institute and Atlas Network, in order to identify the policies that could reverse the country’s worrisome trends and convert the Greek economy to a vibrant, dynamic, and wealth-generating environment.

“All this may seem too good to be true, except it’s been done in any number of nations throughout the world, from the Asian Tigers to the Celtic Tiger,” said Fred McMahon, Michael Walker Chair of Economic Freedom Research with the Fraser Institute, during his keynote speech.

The Athens audit brought together more than 60 experts in their fields, including current and foreign members of parliament, journalists, leading academics, and other officials. Participants were divided into four workshops with a specific agenda: rule of law, size of government, regulatory efficiency, and sound money. Each workshop was moderated by leading Greek intellectuals.

“In our workshop, the consensus was that the size of the Greek government is much bigger than what data shows, due to the fact that many policies that are adopted and laws passed today contain many hidden costs,” said Dr. Panagiotis Liargovas, head of the Greek Parliamentary Budget Office and moderator of the size-of-government workshop, during his closing remarks. “They create new bureaucratic structures that will impact our fiscal position in the coming years. It is certain that unless this changes immediately, the size of government will continue to grow in the future.”   

The vice president of the primary Greek opposition party, Kostis Hatzidakis, also offered his welcoming remarks at the beginning of the audit, explaining, “The primary and most basic lesson that all Greeks need to learn is that the crisis is not the result of economic liberalism but of statism.”

Nicos Rompapas, executive director of the Center for Liberal Studies, said during his closing remarks that this workshop was the beginning of a long term campaign to promote the policies that could help Greece recover and return to growth. He also informed the participants that the economic freedom audit will be a recurring annual event.

The audit received wide attention through its media sponsors, SKAI TV and Kathimerini. Many articles made references to the event on top Greek news websites like Liberal.gr and Capital.gr.


Uruguay

Centro de Estudios para el Desarrollo (CED) held the Economic Freedom Audit event for Uruguay on Oct. 25 at Universidad ORT in Montevideo. The Fraser Institute’s Fred MacMahon and Hernán Bonilla, executive director of CED, spoke about Uruguay’s standing on Fraser’s “Economic Freedom of the World” index and discussed proposals for improvement.

Widely recognized media outlets, such as El Espectador and El Pais, widely featured the event. Coverage included both an interview with McMahon and op-ed written by Bonilla.

CED’s published report on the index shows that the Uruguay has promising prospects for sound money, a fair legal system, and secure property rights, but the future is less assured for Uruguay’s size of government, freedom of international trade, and regulation.

In addition to the primary audit event, CED is organizing smaller events to present the findings of its report in cities throughout Uruguay, such as Maldonado and Paysandú, and in neighboring Argentina.


Venezuela

Centro de Divulgacion del Conocimiento Economico para la Libertad (CEDICE Freedom), organized its Economic Freedom Audit as a series of seven workshops, each covering one area of the Fraser Institute’s “Economic Freedom of the World” index. These events drew a total attendance of 108 people, including representatives of academia, public agencies, unions, businesses, media, and civil society.

Fred McMahon of the Fraser Institute opened each session by reviewing the performance of the world’s freest economies, and explaining how they differ from the least free economies, such as Venezuela. McMahon’s trip included a visit to the Economics and Sustainable Development Unit of the British Embassy in Caracas. He also met with Consecomercio, a local trade association, to present the “Economic Freedom of the World” index to nearly 50 business owners and managers and to expound the benefits of economic freedom for the macroeconomic performance and welfare of society in Venezuela.

The events received media attention from outlets such as El Nacional in Venezuela and the Globe and Mail in Canada. CEDICE Libertad expects to receive substantial media attention upon publication of its final report, which will contain specific policy recommendations and will be widely distributed.


Serbia

Libertarian Club Libek held its Economic Freedom Audit event for Serbia on Oct. 10 in Belgrade, with the goal of analyzing the key challenges for Serbia and its placement on the Fraser Institute’s “Economic Freedom of the World” index, and to propose measures that wil improve the country’s standing. The event brought together 80 experts from academia, business associations, the private sector, and representatives from the public sector.

The event started with remarks by H. E. Philip Pinnington, ambassador of Canada in Serbia, who welcomed Libek’s efforts in the field of public advocacy for higher economic freedom and prosperity in the country. He was followed by the Fraser Institute’s Fred McMahon, who lectured on the importance of economic freedom for growth, development, combating poverty, and achieving general prosperity.

After the introduction, conference participants separated into thematic working groups, moderated by Vladimir Vuckovic of the Fiscal Council of the Republic of Serbia, Boris Begovic on the law faculty at the University of Belgrade, Rastko Petakovic with the Karanovic/Nikolic legal practice, Slaviša Tasic of the University of Mary in North Dakota, and Mihailo Gajic of Libertarian Club Libek.

During the conclusion of the conference, the moderators presented their groups’ recommendations, which Libertarian Club Libek published on Dec. 27.