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To nationalize or unnationalize? It is ironic that at a time when such an advanced country in the West as France is experimenting with socialism, some nations of the third world are moving in the reverse direction and opting for a dose of capitalism.

Item: Sri Lanka, much of whose economy is nationalized, is now encouraging private investors to operate alongside the state sector. Some 140 projects employ 13,500 people. The government is also using local and foreign private-sector skills to run its inefficient state-owned tea, rubber, and coconut plantations.

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Item: Mali, after 20 years of decline, has begun to liberalize its Soviet-aided socialist system. Western companies are being invited to explore for oil and minerals, and unprofitable domestic firms are up for sale to outside investors. "We now recognize a need for change," says Mali's minister of industrial development. $ TBetter late than never.