The advancement of liberty and free markets deserves to be celebrated. And on May 21 it will be when the Cato Institute presents Leszek Balcerowicz, former Deputy Prime Minister of Poland, with the 2014 Milton Friedman Prize for advancing liberty. Balcerowizc was a student of the “Five P’s”: prior preparation prevents poor performance, explains Cato Senior Fellow Steve H. Hanke. “Balcerowicz was ready when he first took office in 1989. Indeed, he pulled his comprehensive economic game plan to liberalize and transform the Polish economy out of his desk drawer and proceeded to implement what became known as the ‘Big Bang’. As they say, the rest is history,” writes Hanke who compares Balcerowicz’s big bang to communist Ukraine below.
Over the last decade, we’ve been watching Poland from near and afar—visiting family and speaking with business contacts—gathering on the ground intelligence. We have seen the continuation of the transformation set in motion by Leszek Balcerowicz. New highways, privitazations, deregulation, government deregulation, and rapid development have made Poland one of Europe’s fastest growing economies. Poland was the only European nation to avoid the Great Recession, with cumulative growth near 16% through the 2008-2011 period. Many hands have shaped Poland’s development since it cast off communism, but Leszek Balcerowicz was the prime architect of Poland’s successful transition into capitalism and democracy.
Timothy Jones contributed to this piece.