NISPAcee Annual Conference
 
Paper Details
General Session
Author(s)  Donald Fuller 
  American University of Armenia
Yerevan  Armenia
 
 
Paper Name  Policy implications for Visegrad four countries in potential policy spaces deriving from demographic as a ‘systemic’ variable
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Paper Abstract  
  
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 Preliminary Abstract
The paper examines the research question: to what extent is demography within the Visegrad Four (V-4) likely to affect policy prescriptions within four policy spaces: pensions, health care, migration and employment? While national and European orientations may affect policy vectors, demography represents a genetic variable to the aforementioned sectors. That is, a significant demographic change will cause a concomitant change in the policy outcomes (change in the architecture). This is so since prior policy prescriptions have been based on less volatile vectors that centered upon long term regularity. The paper argues that demographic change will cause the outcome levels to be the result of changed policy construction. Illustratively, the paradigm for constructing pensions can no longer be founded on a base of pay-as-you-go defined benefits. The dependency ratio of pensioners has and will reduce itself to 2:1 and lower: that is, two to one or one to one workers contributing the pension payments for the retiree.

Policy changes in the V-4 (and elsewhere) must gain acceptance of voting publics. Failure to do so may cause voting opposition and erosion of citizen trust. Policy change, however, requires political will. Poorly conceived policies are likely to be inefficient, ineffective and self-destructive. The paper follows a current demographic shortfall of live berths in the V-4 (almost identical to elsewhere in the EU) and argues the need for policy changes based upon a paradigm consisting of “national, European and systemic” variables.

The Visegrad Four has pursued a neo-liberal economic paradigm with “Rhineland” protections in contrast to a pure neo-American model. This contrasts in Poland and Slovakia at the margins with categorizations of “neo-populism.” The case of Poland with the election of Prime Minister Tusk seems to have reverted in the Rhinish direction. Perhaps, more appropriately we may consider the V-4 to resemble the social democratic model, certainly not that of Sarkozy in today’s emerging France. Germany would seem more applicable.

Policy prescriptions often are embedded in political economic models such as above. Tension has always existed between elected representatives and planners. Entire books are written on cost/benefit analysis, public choice and best practices. This paper pursues not only the national and Euro-centric ingredients in policy but in the system variables, seemingly generic to policy prescriptions. Demography is one of these variables. Yet demography means one thing in China and India: huge populations; and another, in the V-4: too many old people in proportion to young The current funding model will not hold in the V-4. One can argue cost benefit but at 22% of GDP in the U.S., policymakers are having to accommodate increasing health care costs and fewer revenue participants. The same is true of pensions. The paper adds migration and jobs (employment) as similarly affected by demography. Paying for the sick and the retired, however, reduce the bargaining space to less than the margins. They must be paid. Societies wishing to construct barriers to immigration and jobs, may survive, but must consider the globalized tension underlying such protections. This is not only a U.S. problem. The V-4 is stuck in the same environment.

Potucek asserts that the scope of public policy extends along a “continuum from basic research (comparative and at the highest level of generalization) to the more applied (narrow, focused, and country-specific) set of applications. This paper addresses the mid-level prescriptors that are largely symptomatic. That is, we do not discuss whether good health or pensions are necessary. Democratic, social safety net societies have already determined that they are necessary. The technical argument then becomes how to maintain solid quality while maintaining an ability to pay. Quality is not being traded off. It is a given (excluding non-democratic societies not caring about social capital). The acceptable solutions do include political (national vs. Euro) caveats. The paper focuses on the systemic nature of the demography variable that will drive policy solutions.

The paper concludes that the systemic variable is genetic to policy prescriptions among the policy spaces of pensions, health care, migration and employment. Secondly, it argues that Eurobarometer readings suggest the V-4 publics are prepared to accept policy changes in these policy spaces with greater optimism than politically elected representatives. Recent data from Eurobarometer bear this out. These findings are substantiated by the World Bank. The Bank adds “long term care” as equally demanding upon public (or private) finances. Secondly, a World Bank/EBRD joint survey points to an existing strong urban/rural divide while optimists tend to be the young (seeking opportunity); pessimists tend to be the elderly (seeking protection). This comports with the Eurobarometer. The World Bank/EBRD survey reports a general loss of trust in society: two-thirds of society could be trusted prior to transition; only one-third can be trusted today. Yet, combining Eurobarometer with World Bank, one can speak of a certain momentum for change not seen heretofore in their elected politicians.

Interestingly, these policy changes of interest impinge upon the EU programmatic pillars in contradistinction to initial formulas for dividing responsibility between the EU and its members (namely, the Third Pillar). Thus, the EU “constitutional foundations” seem to be shifting in the direction of greater EU involvement in national affairs not generally acknowledged to be acceptable or desirable national politicians. The paper charts demography as it affects pensions, health care, migration and jobs, and assembles emerging data about the behavior of these policy spaces somewhat moribund for years.

An unexpected finding is the degree of optimism of youth for EU involvement in trans-European affairs. Some might argue that this is misplaced optimism: you are idealizing the EU as being better than your own national governments. Yet the responses are quite clear: they see the EU as a vector to living abroad, studying abroad, and working abroad. As an example,”The EU will bring more opportunities for work; more equality between men and women; less discrimination vs. foreigners (cultures and ethnic groups); better quality of life for most people.” This paper will provide evidence that youth is taking advantage of such opportunities. It is they, the construction workers, and the shopkeepers that seem to be piling into the EU-15; not the Polish plumbers.