PanAm Podcast with Slobodan Franeta: Fighting for Economic Freedom in the Balkans
Montenegrin economist Slobodan Franeta has a vision for a prosperous future for the Balkans; one that is in fact based upon many of the principles that inspired a new generation of political and economic thinkers as Communism collapsed throughout Eastern Europe. To that end, he founded the Montenegrin chapter of Students for Liberty, and started the Lucha Institute, which seeks to promote libertarian and classical liberal principles in Montenegro, and throughout the region in general.
Sadly, while a generation ago, free markets and free trade were lofty principles to which Balkan political leaders aspired, Franeta fears that the pernicious influence of big government and its accompanying central planning, is posing a threat to the economic prosperity of Montenegro.
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The long-time Democratic Party of Socialists, in fact, once adhered to fairly liberal economic principles and free-market-oriented reforms. However, slowly but surely, familiar foes have reared their head in the Balkans: central planning, statism, socialism, and protectionism.
This gives Franeta reason for concern, as the state increasingly seeks to interfere in the free market, particularly in important sectors like real estate and transportation: “In general, slowly Montenegro is sliding towards becoming a socialist country…(for example) there was a law that approved centralization of urban planning in Montenegro, where the government will control urban planning on the coastline…their new laws are largely oriented towards controlling private enterprise, particularly (for example) in the taxi industry.
As with most of the Balkans (with the exception of Croatia) Uber and similar ride-sharing apps are banned in the country, as politicians routinely cave to the powerful taxi companies who don’t want start-up competition.
Franeta, like many libertarians in the region, is disappointed that the classical liberal principles that potentially heralded economic prosperity have diminished within the longstanding rule of the Democratic Party of Socialists,
“Well, in general it is interesting, because the Democratic Party of Socialists is a group of people that have two different lines of thinking…for example there is the one part that is associated with Mr. Djukanovic, which is more pro-liberal oriented; those people were in his government…there were some very pro-liberal people who pushed a lot of great reforms and great laws which would improve the current economy of Montenegro.”
“The other part is now led by Mr. Dusko Markovic, which I can say is more socialistic. In general, that is the reason why we have laws promoting centralization, and on the other side, they are killing Montenegro’s competitiveness in global markets.”
Franeta also suggests that the Montenegrin state is entirely too large, and its public sector bloated. Much needed reforms should encourage private enterprise, entrepreneurship, free trade, and global competitiveness.
Ultimately, Franeta is hopeful for the future of the Balkans, but continues to be a leading advocate for liberalization in the Montenegrin economy.