Comment: The ups and downs of being a country
Guest writer Ronnie Smith comments on some of the highlights of the last couple of days for Romania.
It’s not easy being a country and five very recent stories on Romania-Insider.com clearly illustrate the difficulties that Romania faces when trying to evaluate its place in the world.
The Romanian entry didn’t do so badly in the Eurovision song contest. Within the context of the event Mandinga performed very well, offering a performance every bit as over-produced as everyone else. In this annual theater of the absurd they could easily have won, as far as I could see, but I have no way of understanding how the winners are chosen. I hear that the British are thinking of pulling out of Eurovision because they have clearly been left behind and don’t take the competition as seriously as many other countries and…my grandmother was a huge fan of Englebert Humperdink in the 1960s. So well done Romania!
In the area of economic development Romania has not only some underlying structural problems, at times there seems to be an ignorance in government of how business actually works. Taking the pharma industry as a model, it appears that the Romanian government assumes that where they are unable to fund state services through the adequate collection of taxes, the private suppliers of vital specialist services and products will happily make up the shortfall. Although some investors in some sectors find Romania an attractive business environment, others, including the American Chamber of Commerce have complaints. Trust me, private companies exist to make profit and not to help a government meet its under- financed public obligations.
Sustainable economic growth in Romania desperately needs substantial private corporate investment because there is simply too little of it coming from within the country. Looking at how pharma suppliers are treated now does not make Romania anything close to an attractive investment proposition, there are other markets where higher returns are more stable and secure. A sound and realistic Romanian government business policy would be an extremely good idea right now, but it’s looking like a very steep uphill struggle at the moment.
We read that Romania rates fifteen out of twenty emerging countries on the index of soft-power projection. Having no wish to attempt to define what that means, I’ll settle for saying that there are areas of human activity in which Romania is looked upon favorably by the rest of the world; art being one and gymnastics another. This does not mean that Romania will shortly join the UN Security Council or that billions of Euro are pouring into the state budget, but it’s still a generally positive development.
However, the news that Romania may be dependent on foreign sources for fifty per cent of her energy by 2030 is certainly not a positive development. Is this something that should be happening given Romania’s existing resources in oil and gas and other minerals and already at least some private investment in wind energy projects? In short, will Romania suffer badly because there does not seem to be a comprehensive government policy on energy provision for the country going forward? It certainly seems that, until now, energy suppliers have been driving whatever development is taking place, in the Black Sea and in the case of shale oil extraction, but purely corporate commercial imperatives are not enough when planning the strategic development of a country’s future.
Remember, when we talk about ‘external provision of energy’ we are talking about Gazprom and Russia…! The problem is not only confined to the supply of energy.
Finally we are told that Romania sold EUR 131 worth of weapons to the world last year, including products to the value of EUR 33.8 million to the United States. Now, EUR 131 million is not very much in today’s arms market, but I’m sure many of us would like to know what kind of weapons Romania is producing. Is it tanks, warships, sophisticated small-arms or is it soft-ware for use in the increasingly important area of electronic warfare? Romania is acknowledged to be very good at IT, so is this potentially a very good story for the future of the Romanian economy?
Phew, a couple of busy few days for one country.
By Ronnie Smith
Ronnie Smith is Scottish and now lives in Romania, working as a professional training business consultant and communication coach. He is also a teacher of political science, a political and social commentator and a writer of fiction.
The views expressed are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of Romania Insider.com