Amid new and continuing political and economic challenges, the readiness of countries to implement reforms seems to have waned. The Transition Report 2013 noted that the difficult environment was limiting the ability of governments – and, in certain cases, their willingness – to implement much-needed structural reforms and return their countries to a path of sustainable growth. As noted in 2013, it appears that, despite the difficult circumstances, there has been no wholesale reversal of previous reforms. However, there has been an increase in the number of downgrades relating to either the reversal of reforms or a lack of much-needed action to lift countries out of the crisis. As a result, there have been more downgrades than upgrades this year.
The EBRD continues to measure the progress of reforms in two ways. The first is a review of country-level reforms in areas such as privatisation, competition policy and trade. This review has been conducted since 1994 and has been extended to cover all years since 1989. While by no means comprehensive, it can be a useful tool to illustrate the progress that countries have made in allowing the private sector to develop and thrive as an important pillar of a functioning market economy. The second is a more disaggregated assessment at sector level which captures the distance relative to an industrialised market economy in terms of market structure and market-supporting institutions.
At sector level, the number of downgrades has continued to increase, surpassing the number of upgrades for the first time since the assessment began in 2010. Similar to last year, downgrades are driven mainly by EU countries (albeit there have also been a number of downgrades in Central Asia). The country-level indicators continue the trend witnessed in previous years of fewer changes being observed. Indeed, there have been only two upgrades and one downgrade this year.
With Cyprus becoming an EBRD recipient country in May 2014, sector and country-level assessments have been conducted for the country for the first time.