This book is a must read on Central Asian economies written by one of the few experts of the economies of the region.  Richard Pomfret, Professor of economics of the University of Adelaide, has published extensively on this topic, one of its well-known books being “The Economies of Central Asia” published in 1995.  A better understanding of the economies of the region is crucial due to the fact that economic and social conditions have appeared as underlying principles of political instability in Central Asia.  After a comprehensive and concise presentation of the five post-Soviet economies, the author presents, in a second part, regional economic trends and the impact of the transition process on poverty in the last fifteen years.  Relevantly, the third part is dedicated to the role of natural resources and of international trade, and the last part presents the future economic prospects for the region.  Although the book draws upon some already published work, analysis is up-to-date.  The author presents the various approaches related to the reform process that Central Asian countries have adopted and emphasises on the different outcomes of such policies.  R. Pomfret rightly points out that the five countries have had to face three major economic shocks after the independence: economic liberalisation, the end of the Soviet Union, and subsequent hyperinflation.  The second part is probably of the highest interest for Central Asian experts since it demonstrates the social and economic impact of the transition process and clearly identifies that rural people with no education and large families have been the losers of the fifteen years since the end of the Soviet Union (some lessons which could be probably extrapolated to other former Soviet countries).  Interestingly, the book presents the social aspect but also some key factors to understand the economies of the region, such as their political economy.  One of the few weaknesses of the book is the lack of debate on the importance of the initial conditions to explain the current economic performance of the five economies.  Indeed, although they have approached antagonistically economic reforms, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan currently face the same disappointing economic and social results.  Reform policies have mattered so as initial conditions.  That is also why, despite potential reforms, economic difficulties could be prolonged in some parts of Central Asia.

Gaël Raballand, Choiseul Institute, Paris
CER: I-8.4.A-724