Reply to "Mimochodom",
an Article by Zuzana Szatmary,
Published in Kulturny Zivot
on the 3rd December 1991
by Sean Gabb
Economic and Political Adviser to the Prime Minister

(Published in Kulturny Zivot on the 20th February 1992
in a Slovak version prepared by Andrea Gabb)

I have just read Zuzana Szatmary's article "Mimochodom" in Kulturny Zivot for the 3rd December 1991. In this, she makes a number of claims concerning the Western advisers to Dr Carnogursky of whom I am one.

She claims: that we all work for the Adam Smith Institute in London, and that this is an extreme right wing organisation; and that we are here only to use Slovakia as a laboratory for right wing "Thatcherite" economic policies that are now rejected in England.

Each of these claims is untrue.

Of the four Western advisers now in Slovakia, not one works, or ever has worked, for the Adam Smith Institute. I admire this organisation greatly. It is perhaps the greatest advocate of privatisation and other free market reforms in the world. I possess, and often refer to, many of its publications. But I do not work for it.

Nor is it the case that privatisation and the free market have been rejected in England. Margaret Thatcher is no longer Prime Minister. But the Government is still Thatcherite. It has just halved the rate of inflation. It is now completing the privatisation of the State telephone company. It plans to privatise the railways and the Post Office.

Does this sound like a government that has rejected the free market? Having John Major as my Prime Minister, I do not need to use Slovakia as any kind of laboratory.

Let me now explain my true reason for being here in Slovakia. I am here at the invitation of Dr Carnogursky to work in his Policy Advisory Unit.

Why did I accept his invitation?

I came here because I want Slovakia to become a stable, prosperous, democratic part of Central Europe. It can do this only by suffering the brief, though perhaps sharp, pains of economic reform. Its centrally planned economy must be transformed into one based on free markets and limited government. I have the experience and ability to help reduce these pains to a minimum.

Again, why do I want to help?

In answering this question, I cannot speak for my colleagues. They must speak for themselves. But I want to help in part because I have grown during my time here to like Slovakia and its people. I feel welcome here. I am learning your language. I should be sad if your country were to take the wrong path and become another Croatia.

Mainly, though, I want to help because I am a patriotic Englishman; and to help Slovakia at the moment is to help England. Consider:

First, England has gone to war twice this century because of events in Central Europe. In 1914 it was the shootings in Sarajevo, in 1939 the German invasion of Poland. These wars nearly ruined my country. They cost us an ocean of blood. In the Second World War, for example, I lost both my grandfathers and four of my great uncles; and mine is not an unusual case. These wars also crippled our economy. We do not want further trouble in Central Europe. Because economic problems lead to political instability, we want a prosperous Slovakia. That is an English interest that I am here to serve.

Second, my country does not want the European Community to become a common state. We want free trade with our European neighbours, but do not want to lose the national independence which we have preserved now for 900 years. To preserve this independence in the future, we need to bring inside the Community all the nations of Central and Eastern Europe. If we can expand the Community in this way, progress towards political federation will be at least delayed, and perhaps even stopped entirely. We want Slovakia inside the Community. Yet an unstable or undemocratic nation will not be admitted. Therefore again, we want a prosperous Slovakia. That is an English interest that I am here to serve.

These are coldly rational arguments, I know. But they are honest, and they make sense. I regret to say that Ms Szatmary's article is a thoroughly silly production. She explains my presence in Slovakia without having asked me what I am doing here, and it seems without having asked anyone else.

It is perhaps fortunate for her reputation as a journalist that hardly anyone reads Kulturny Zivot.