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Thursday, September 29, 2005

Baby steps


Poland moves up nine places in WEF's economic ranking list

Experts from the World Economic Forum decided that Finland is the most competitive country in the world third time in a row. The authors of the report stressed that Poland, which improved its standing by nine places and ended 51 in the world, was among the countries that made the largest leap. Poland is however only slightly ahead of Mauritius, but behind among others Botswana, Tunisia, Thailand and Kuwait. Poland is lagging behind due to the high level of the state's debt and the inefficiency of the state bureaucracy. Polled businessmen also mentioned unclear fiscal regulations and corruption, as the main obstacles to conducting business. "Accession countries are not a homogenous group. In our ranking, Poland is placed in the lowest position due to substantial weaknesses in terms of institutions," admitted Augusto Loper-Claros, chief economist with the Forum.


Blogger Rythin said...

When oil goes out, people in Kuwait will still ride their camels, while Poles will begin sell the coal to everyone... :)

Unless US invades us... :)

9/29/2005 03:21:00 PM  

Blogger Gustav said...

I actually understand Poland being behind Kuwait. They have a pretty healthy market, as I understand.

But Thailand? Tunisia?


9/29/2005 03:38:00 PM  

Blogger Redneck Texan said...

How does Poland rate as far as other former communist / socialist countries go?

That should be your measuring stick. You have generations that were not rewarded for being more productive than the next guy.

Russia and East Germany have citizens longing for the good old days of socialism. They miss their free stuff. They are an anchor against a rising tide of productivity, because when increased productivity takes hold those not willing to be productive stand to suffer the most.

9/30/2005 03:06:00 AM  

Blogger Gustav said...

There were problems with formatting this comment and trying to get everything to line up, but after an hour of fighting with Blogger, HTML etc., I've' lost all my patience. You can figure it out.

World Economic Forum Growth Competitiveness Index rankings 2005 and 2004 comparisons

Country 2005 Score 2004

Finland 1 5.94 1
United States 2 5.81 2
Sweden 3 5.65 3
Denmark 4 5.65 5
Taiwan 5 5.58 4
Singapore 6 5.48 7
Iceland 7 5.48 10
Switzerland 8 5.46 8
Norway 9 5.4 6
Australia 10 5.21 14
Netherlands 11 5.21 12
Japan 12 5.18 9
United Kingdom 13 5.11 11
Canada 14 5.1 15
Germany 15 5.1 13
New Zealand 16 5.09 18
Korea, Rep. 17 5.07 29
UAE 18 4.99 16
Qatar 19 4.97 —
Estonia 20 4.95 20
Austria 21 4.95 17
Portugal 22 4.91 24
Chile 23 4.91 22
Malaysia 24 4.9 31
Luxembourg 25 4.9 26
Ireland 26 4.86 30
Israel 27 4.84 19
Hong Kong SAR 28 4.83 21
Spain 29 4.8 23
France 30 4.78 27
Belgium 31 4.63 25
Slovenia 32 4.59 33
Kuwait 33 4.58 —
Cyprus 34 4.54 38
Malta 35 4.54 32
Thailand 36 4.5 34
Bahrain 37 4.48 28
Czech Rep. 38 4.42 40
Hungary 39 4.38 39
Tunisia 40 4.32 42
Slovakia 41 4.31 43
South Africa 42 4.31 41
Lithuania 43 4.3 36
Latvia 44 4.29 44
Jordan 45 4.28 35
Greece 46 4.26 37
Italy 47 4.21 47
Botswana 48 4.21 45
China 49 4.07 46
India 50 4.04 55
Poland 51 4 60
Mauritius 52 4 49
Egypt 53 3.96 62
Uruguay 54 3.93 54
Mexico 55 3.92 48
El Salvador 56 3.86 53
Colombia 57 3.84 64
Bulgaria 58 3.83 59
Ghana 59 3.82 68
Trin. & Tobago 60 3.81 51
Kazakhstan 61 3.77 —
Croatia 62 3.74 61
Namibia 63 3.72 52
Costa Rica 64 3.72 50
Brazil 65 3.69 57
Turkey 66 3.68 66
Romania 67 3.67 63
Peru 68 3.66 67
Azerbaijan 69 3.64 —
Jamaica 70 3.64 65
Tanzania 71 3.57 82
Argentina 72 3.56 74
Panama 73 3.55 58
Indonesia 74 3.53 69
Russian Fed. 75 3.53 70
Morocco 76 3.49 56
Philippines 77 3.47 76
Algeria 78 3.46 71
Armenia 79 3.44 —
Serb. & Mont.80 3.38 89
Vietnam 81 3.37 77
Moldova 82 3.37 —
Pakistan 83 3.33 91
Ukraine 84 3.3 86
Macedonia 85 3.26 84
Georgia 86 3.25 94
Uganda 87 3.24 79
Nigeria 88 3.23 93
Venezuela 89 3.22 85
Mali 90 3.22 88
Mozambique 91 3.19 92
Kenya 92 3.19 78
Honduras 93 3.18 97
Gambia 94 3.18 75
Bos. & Herz. 95 3.17 81
Mongolia 96 3.16 —
Guatemala 97 3.12 80
Sri Lanka 98 3.1 73
Nicaragua 99 3.08 95
Albania 100 3.07 —
Bolivia 101 3.06 98
Dominican Rep. 102 3.05 72
Ecuador 103 3.01 90
Tajikistan 104 3.01 —
Malawi 105 3 87
Ethiopia 106 3 101
Madagascar 107 2.95 96
East Timor 108 2.93 —
Zimbabwe 109 2.89 99
Bangladesh 110 2.86 102
Cameroon 111 2.84 —
Cambodia 112 2.82 —
Paraguay 113 2.8 100
Benin 114 2.74 —
Guyana 115 2.73 —
Kyrgyz Republic 116 2.62 —
Chad 117 2.37 104

I've narrowed down "former communist/socialist countries" to "former Soviet bloc/sphere of influence" countries. They're in bold. As you can see, of all of those countries who joined the EU last year, Poland ranks dead last. Particularly embarrassing is that Poland is so far behind its traditional competitors for foreign investment, the Czech Republic and Hunagry. Even Slovakia is 10 points ahead!

That Estonia and Slovenia are so farther up the ladder is not so surprising. They've had a good run of it since the fall of communism in their countries.

All of these countries are much smaller than Poland, which is revealing. Although Poland has more resources, it's simply harder to manage drastic change and reform when you've got a population of 40 million as opposed to a population of 10 millon.

I'm sorry to see that Croatia slipped one spot, and Ukraine climbed only 2. I am not one bit surprised that Russia fell five points in the ranking.

I must say RT, that in Poland, there are also many citizens "longing for the good old days of [communism]" (note: Poland is still socialist, and the two are not interchangeable). Look at how well the SLD did in Sunday's elections - 11% support, 55 representatives in the Sejm!.

But "missing their free stuff" isn't exactly the reason. There wasn't much "free stuff" to be had here, especially towards the end of communism, in the mid-eighties. But, the reminiscent argue, EVERYBODY had a job. EVERYBODY had SOMEWHERE to live. We were all poor, the argument goes, but at least there was no abject poverty. Now 17.8% of Poles are out of work. Warsaw's train station was once closed down because of striking homeless people refusing to leave there.

I disagree with their argument, of course. As Poland becomes more competitive, the relative level of poverty for the poorest in the country will rise. If not for government incompetence though, Poland could be much higher than 51st place.

10/01/2005 02:03:00 PM  

Blogger Redneck Texan said...

Well, one of the reasons that I am always getting cross-ways with the people who frequent my blog is when I say stuff like "Democracy / Capitalism may be the perfect system for us, but that does not mean its the perfect system for every culture".

Take a look at the top 17 most productive countries, then look at the bottom 30. Thats a healthy dose of lily white northern European, Anglosphere, and oriental cultures at the top, and a distinct line between them and African, South American, and Central Asian cultures. Surely you cant ignore the role cultural values play in personal productivity habits.

I am no proponent of socialism....in America, but it might be the perfect form of government for our enemies in South America and the Middle East. :-) Look at # 47 China....if they were not bound by the restraints of socialism they would already rule the economic world. I think its kinda arrogant and short-sighted of us to harbor dreams of imposing Democracy on them, and getting in the middle of their business as far as human rights issues go. The Chinese people seem to be quite happy with their current form of un-elected socialist political system, it might be the perfect one for them.

As far as Poland goes, I wonder how they would stack up if this list were compiled a hundred years ago, before German and Russian occupation, and before the long experiment in communism. And if it was still near the bottom of European productivity, what would we blame it on then?

Not dissing Poland or the Polish people, just suggesting the problem may be more cultural than political, and changing political parties may not be enough to ever fix the problem.

btw, I told myself I was not going to bitch about your comment registration, because I hate spam too....but I have no idea which combination of letters I need to input in order to publish this...I cant make it out because of the way they run together.

It could be


last time it was easy to read, this time it is not... oh well I will give it a guess.

update....well I got it wrong on the first attempt, but now I got some that are easier to read because there are actually spaces between the letters. yippee.


10/02/2005 01:56:00 AM  

Blogger Gustav said...

Word verification (I'm not forcing "registration" upon anyone): I've had that problem before too. I'm optimistic the kinks will be worked out though.

100 years ago "Poland" as a political entity didn't exist - it was under another German/Russian occupation. But between World Wars I and II, Poland was free. These times are generally referred to as "The Golden Years" because of Poland's economic and cultural prosperity.

Poland had many prosperous years as an empire as well - but as Wikipedia says:

In traditional history one finds the claim that the regional powers partitioned Poland-Lithuania because of the degeneration of the state and because of the inability of the Poles to rule themselves at the time.

It goes on to say that the partitions occurred as Poland was making a slow recovery. But it is true that there was a "degeneration of the state" earlier. That was in large part due to the liberum veto. Was that caused by cultural factors? It seems like a very Polish thing give everybody the right to destroy collective authority, but Poland was not existing by itself in a microcosm:

"In the first half of the 18th century, it became increasingly common for Sejm sessions to be broken up by liberum veto, as the [Polish-Lithuanian] Commonwealth's neighbors — chiefly Russia and Prussia — found this a useful tool to frustrate attempts at reforming and strengthening the Commonwealth."

Of course there were internal factors as well - the nobles liked the power they had. But I would argue that this is a political, not cultural factor. Who doesn't like power?

So while I'm skeptical that a change of political parties will solve even most of Poland's major problems, I do believe that they can be solved politically - eventually. Polish culture when left to its own devices, brings about an economically prosperous Poland.

I think its kinda arrogant and short-sighted of us to harbor dreams of imposing Democracy on them, and getting in the middle of their business as far as human rights issues go. The Chinese people seem to be quite happy with their current form of un-elected socialist political system, it might be the perfect one for them.

Isn't it even more arrogant to pretend to believe that the Chinese people are happy with unelected government and restricted human rights? You and I are both familiar with Tiananmen Square. That China is not in the throes of revolution right now is scant evidence that the people there are "quite happy" with their political system.

Your argument about the top and bottom countries: Surely you cannot ignore the role history has played in giving the countries at the top a head start and those at the bottom a disadvantage. Or can all of history be boiled down to "personal productivity" as a result of "cultural values"? No influence of geography, natural resources, or population size, not to mention exploitation, colonization, and political oppression?

I can give you a great example of a socialist country which is often described as "lazy" culturally (this is what you're getting at when you're talking about "personal productivity", right?) - Spain. While there on my recent vacation, I often cursed those "lazy" bastards when I couldn't get my dinner at 5 because of their siesta. According to your reasoning they shouldn't be doing very well economically. Yet, in the World Economic Forum Ranking, Spain places 29th - in the top 30, better than Poland, and, surprisingly, just behind Hong Kong. According to the OECD, Spain's economy is set to grow by more this year (3.2%) than in the last three years it had a conservative government. There are two points here: The first is that "socialism" doesn't necessarily hold an economy back. The second is that although cultural values can affect a country's economy, a society always finds a way to become more productive if there's money to be made.

But even if cultural values WERE the main factor in impoverishing a country, that does not absolve us of our responsibility to help our fellow man – which is where I think you’re going with your argument. It’s their fault that they’re poor, so we ought not help them, right? Cultures can change, and in sub-Saharan Africa, where the culture of productivity can be weak, it's necessary to help them to change.

10/02/2005 03:56:00 PM  

Blogger Redneck Texan said...

Surely you cannot ignore the role history has played in giving the countries at the top a head start and those at the bottom a disadvantage.

What "head start" are you talking about?

Africa, the cradle of humanity, the Tigris-Euphrates, Indus valley, China, and the Mayan civilization were all light-years ahead of the Northern European barbarian tribes 5000 years ago, they have been playing this civilization game much longer than today's current leaders.....what happened? Why are they not still more advanced?

Your not just making up stuff to avoid acknowledging the obvious truth are you?

Cultures can change, and in sub-Saharan Africa, where the culture of productivity can be weak, it's necessary to help them to change.

Help them change? What if they don't want to? You mean force them to alter their self-destructive culture, right? How would you like it if someone tried to alter your cultural values to better align with theirs?

There are lots of reasons why the most advanced cultures on the planet 5000 years ago have declined relative to today's leading cultures, and I don't feel that today's leading cultures have any obligation to waste a percentage of their hard-earned wealth on cultures that squandered their "head start".

10/02/2005 10:04:00 PM  

Blogger Gustav said...

What "head start" are you talking about?

The one "today's leaders" got by ruthlessly conquering and exploiting those former civilizations, for example. But there are also things like droughts, famines, and epidemics to consider. They may have been "lightyears ahead" but simple things like hurricanes still give even the most advanced of countries a bit of trouble. ;-) It's not the amount of history, it's the way history's winds have blown. Chalking those civilizations' declines up to glitches in their culture is lazy, and I think, selfish.

Help them change? What if they don't want to? You mean force them to alter their self-destructive culture, right? How would you like it if someone tried to alter your cultural values to better align with theirs?

Well, if change would be better for the society and the world, then it's a good idea to try and convince them. Force them to change? We're talking about creating a better "culture of productivity" right? In other words, convincing people to work more? I don't think it would be necessary. People will work hard if they feel they will be rewarded - in other words they need to feel empowered. You notice the bottom 30 on the WEF list are all also poorly governed? Nobody in these places has any hope. Bring back good governance, bring back hope, the work ethic will come alive. Poland is an excellent example.

Just curious - how do you feel about female circumcision? Do you believe that its practice should be allowed in places where the dominant culture holds it as an important cultural tradition, or should we force everyone to outlaw the barbaric practice?

10/03/2005 12:35:00 AM  

Blogger Redneck Texan said...

Hell I don't really have a strong opinion on it Gus.

Lots of cultures do some weird shit, and lots of cultures think we do some weird shit too.

I don't feel its my responsibility to tell them what to do and what not do to as long as their cultural bs don't involve the indiscriminate killing of Americans.

I am just somewhat distraught at your abilty to ignore facts that dont fit into your ideology. Or the way you feel a need to explain away a cultures flaws in a way that removes them from responsibilty for their own actions and look for a way to blame the haves for all the have nots problems.

I just dont understand it I quess. I try to sometimes, but the facts just keep getting in the way.

I dont feel evil.

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