Wednesday, January 25, 2006

If This Is Europe's Silver Lining,

Then Where Is The Cloud?

From ¿No Pasaran!: Competitive Economies in Europe: Truth or Fiction?
Finland, Sweden, Denmark and Norway are rated among the top six for competitiveness by the World Economic Forum and score highly in just about every international comparison on living standards, education and health care. The Nordics are outpacing the European average in economic growth and, remarkably for countries with such large public sectors, all have budget surpluses.

How do they do it?

…Economists say the Nordic countries have a solid footing today precisely because they went through a wrenching period of restructuring in the 1980s and 1990s that opened them to increased competition. Unprofitable manufacturing industries were winnowed out while research and development was increased to buttress high-technology industries. The service sector was built up, and government programs like pensions and unemployment benefits were reined in. Today, unemployment is manageable - although some economists question the figures. Productivity, a measure of how much each worker produces, continues to increase faster than the European average.
. . . . .
…But in an article released by a Brussels research group on Tuesday, Rasmussen warned against "bad karaoke," by which he meant other countries' trying halfheartedly to imitate the Nordic model. Countries must realize that policies alone are not the answer because the Nordic model is above all a spirit of cooperation between workers and employers.

Naturally, there are skeptics who attribute healthy-looking Nordic balance sheets to luck and good timing as much as good policy. Demand for the main commodities and products exported from Nordic countries is strong: oil from Norway, steel from Sweden and pulp and paper from Finland. The region also benefited handsomely from the technology boom, especially for companies like Nokia of Finland and Ericsson of Sweden.
Read the rest of the article to look for the cloud.