On September 13th, over half of the staff and researchers of ISET and the ISET Policy Institute were invited to Gdansk for an annual meeting of the FREE Network, where they presented research papers and exchanged ideas with leading academics and policymakers.
With Ukraine and Belarus has taken on hosting duties in 2017 and 2018 respectively, it was Poland that served as the meeting point for this year. The conference was entitled ‘Policy Lessons After 30 Years of Research on Transition’, and held, appropriately enough, at the European Solidarity Center in Gdansk on September 13th. The three decades in the conference’s title refer to the thirty years since the 1989 parliamentary elections held in Poland which helped bring about the end of communist domination in Central and Eastern Europe.
ISET contributed a total of nine researchers and representatives, who discussed and presented a variety of topics, including Parental Gender Preference in the Balkans and Scandinavia: Gender Bias or Differential Costs? (Zurab Abramishvili); Employment vs. homestay and happiness of women in the South Caucasus (Karine Torosyan); The Impact of Sanitary, Phytosanitary, and Quality-related Standards on the Trade Flow Between CAREC Countries and Georgia (Ia Katsia & Phatima Mamardashvili); and Social Mobility and Fertility by Social Status (Tamta Maridashvili). Meanwhile, the institute’s staff undertook a result-based management training course. This latter activity was centered on strategic planning, performance monitoring & evaluation, leadership, and management culture.
The conference was also attended by counterparts from Kyiv, Minsk, Riga, Stockholm, and Szczecin, as well as by Leszek Balcerowicz, an economic icon in Poland who currently serves as a Professor of Economics at the Warsaw School of Economics. As well as having previously held ministerial positions in government, Professor Balcerowicz is well-known throughout Poland for the economic plan that bears his name, which was aimed at instituting reforms in order to drag the country out of the post-communist economic stagnation of the 1990s.
However, two of the most internationally-renowned participants of the conference were from countries outside of the FREE network, namely Professor Erik Berglof of the London School of Economics, and Professor Jeffrey Sachs of Columbia University. Professor Sachs has earned a number of accolades for his work, including being dubbed ‘The most influential leading economist’ by The Economist, ‘the world’s best-known economist’ by Time, and, according to The New York Times, is ‘the most important economist in the world’. Listening to and conversing with titans of the field was a valuable experience for ISET’s representatives.
ISET has been a member of the Forum for Research on Eastern Europe and Emerging Economies (FREE) since 2012 and annually visits another member country for the Forum’s yearly retreat. The 2020 event is scheduled to be held in Stockholm.