Economic liberalization  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Economic liberalization (or economic liberalisation) is the lessening of government regulations and restrictions in an economy in exchange for greater participation by private entities; the doctrine is associated with classical liberalism. Thus, liberalization in short is "the removal of controls" in order to encourage economic development. It is also closely associated with neoliberalism.

Most high-income of the countries have pursued the path of economic liberalization in the recent decades with the stated goal of maintaining or increasing their competitiveness as business environments. Liberalization policies include partial or full privatisation of government institutions and assets, greater labour market flexibility, lower tax rates for businesses, less restriction on both domestic and foreign capital, open markets, etc. In support of liberalization, former British prime minister Tony Blair wrote that: "Success will go to those companies and countries which are swift to adapt, slow to complain, open and willing to change. The task of modern governments is to ensure that our countries can rise to this challenge."

In developing countries, economic liberalization refers more to liberalization or further "opening up" of their respective economies to foreign capital and investments. Three of the fastest growing developing economies today; Brazil, China, and India, have achieved rapid economic growth in the past several years or decades, in part, from having "liberalized" their economies to foreign capital.

Many countries nowadays, particularly those in the third world, arguably have no choice but to also "liberalize" their economies in order to remain competitive in attracting and retaining both their domestic and foreign investments. This is referred to as the TINA factor, standing for "there is no alternative". For example, in 1991, India had little choice but to implement economic reforms.

The total opposite of a liberalized economy would be North Korea's economy with their "self-sufficient" economic system that is closed to foreign trade and investment (see autarky). However, North Korea is not completely separate from the global economy, since it receives aid from other countries in exchange for peace and restrictions in their nuclear programme. Another example would be oil-rich countries such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, which see no need to further open up their economies to foreign capital and investments since their oil reserves already provide them with huge export earnings.

The adoption of economic reforms in the first place and then its reversal or sustenance is a function of certain factors, presence or absence of which will determine the outcome. Sharma (2011) explains all such factors. The author's theory is fairly generalizable and is applicable to the developing countries which have implemented economic reforms in the 1990s.


Historical examples

See also

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