Learning by good examples

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While Latvian authorities are trying to find to mitigate post-virus’ consequences, Turiba University arranged an online conference on perspective Latvian growth patterns. Taking Singapore as an example (widely known as “the Asian’s tiger”, which during about 50 years turned from a “third country” to a leading global economy), the participants wondered what can be done to emulate a positive path to progress.

European, global and Latvian economic development is exposed to numerous challenges, which affect both the strategic planning and tactical decision making. Latvian growth is currently hampered by several aspects of both health and economic consequence of the pandemic. These factors affect decision making and make any strategic solutions even more complicated which require urgent amendment and review of Latvian socio-economic development planning.

Hence, the main conference’s goal has been “to search for tools that could help the economy to develop in the long term along the sustainable path with and increasing Latvian competitiveness”. As the conferences’ organizers underlined: if Singapore, widely known as “the Asian’s tiger”, which managed to develop from a third world country in 30-50 years to one of the leading global economies with about $ 324 billion GDP, what prevents Latvia from becoming a “Baltic tiger”? Source: https://www.turiba.lv/en/research/scientific-conference

Actually, the question posed by the organizers has been clear and simple: what prevents Latvia from becoming a “Baltic tiger”? I don’t think we can dwell deeply into all the theoretical issues of comparison, but nevertheless, I invite our readers and those interested in the issue to share with our magazine possible visions and answers to the question.

Two opening addresses, i.e. by the chairman of the Turiba University’s governing council Aigars Rostovskis and the University’s rector and chairman of the board Aldis Baumanis, followed by the development expert Jenson Goh (Singapore) with a presentation on “Singapore’s story: 30 years from a third world to a leading economy” and a presentation on “Latvian sustainable growth: balancing between the EU and national priorities” by professor Eugene Eteris (Denmark).

Then a roundtable discussion took place on smart immigration as a key to economic growth headed by the head of Global Leadership Forum in Singapore, Low Siew Thiam, his message was presented by the UK’s Bangor University’s lecturer Stephen Jones (the university was founded in 1884 and has had a long tradition of academic excellence and teaching).   

The Singapore’s example

To begin with, the country’s example is feasible in the “transitional” geographic position, closer to sea and limited natural resources (except forest), which makes it possible to emulate the example. According to an expert from Singapore, three strategic components were adopted from the start: a) providing best climate for investments (and other global resources) steaming from a fact of the abundance of resources and particularly the capital in the world, the latter equals to about $ 80 trillion “looking for profitable investment”; b) arranging a best place in the world for doing business; in the category of easing “doing business” by the global account, the country is in the first place during last years. The first two -each in its own sense – have been stimulating external trade; the general concept was genuine, i.e. small countries with limited resources have to rely on foreign investment (so called FDI) and trade. The third component has been related to the idea of small but efficient governance system supplied by a great popular trust! Besides, in allocating available resources, the country’s governance was learning by best global examples in minimizing corruption and creating a “unified society”, which is composed of at least three main ethnic groups presently.  

However, there was something else, also successfully implemented: a specific approach to “national values”; here the educational sphere has been heavily involved when a country is in a process of “building a nation”. Hence, the best strictly national leaders, both grown up and educated in the country, have entered the government, without political strains and problems.

Nevertheless, “the success story” has been tarnished by an unexpected consequence: the affluent growth created very individualistic and selfish groups of citizens and the country has become a most expensive state in the world (e.g. Copenhagen is on the 9th place followed by Paris).

The Latvian challenges: in search for answers…

Latvian growth strategy and priorities have been changing all the time during about 30 years since regaining independence. Presently, being a member of the EU, the country has to follow the EU’s political priorities coped with the numerous funds (i.e. cohesion, social, regional, agro-rural and fisheries) providing Latvia’s budget with about a billion euros yearly. There are about three main such priorities: sustainable growth and circular economy, modernising the governance system and increasing competitiveness: these were exactly the conference’s items of discussion. Often national priorities are subject to “tactical correlations” through the EU’s yearly support: energy efficiency – €377 mln, SMEs’ competitiveness – €334.4 mln, and innovation – €195.5 mln. Through different funds, Latvian government has acquired during last EU’s financial framework € 4,4 billion; sometimes the money are not even fully used…

However, Latvian growth is subject to several European and global challenges; among global are for example: sustainable goals (SDGs); mitigation of climate changes; digitalisation and artificial intelligence; circular and “green” economies, to name a few… Among European ones are the following main Commission’s political priorities for 2020-24 (among six others): so-called “green deal” (which requires Latvian industrial growth through smart specialisation strategy and circular economy practices), digital agenda, incl. assisting industry and business in  transformation to sustainable growth and achieving targets of a climate-neutral Europe, as well as “smart specialisation” and innovation…

Main reference: Eteris E. Latvia in Europe and the world: growth strategy for a new centennial (2018) Web-link: https://www.janisroze.lv/lv/gramatas/akademiska-un-profesionala-literatura/ekonomika-uznemejdarbiba/latvia-in-europe-and-the-world.html

Present pandemic crisis required additional efforts from Latvian governing elites: e.g. ensuring optimal health systems with adequate resources from the national and European funds; and providing liquidity for affected companies. For these and other national needs the Commission provided Latvian government with about €4 billion; hopefully that would used properly and transparently… On COVID-19 effect in the Baltic States in: http://www.baltic-course.com/eng2/editors_note/?doc=21165.

However, a common denominator in Latvian growth strategy shall be human’s satisfaction and happiness, i.e. wellbeing.

Happiness as a driving factor in growth

The concept is not new: as early as 1776, the thirteen states on the American territory in the “Declaration of Independence” acknowledged certain “unalienable rights”, among them “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”; with the following addition: that in order “to secure these rights”, the governments derive their powers from the consent of the governed (bold & italics are mine, EE). Source: https://www.ushistory.org/declaration/document/

The UN General Assembly in June 2011 invited national governments to “give more importance to happiness and well-being in determining how to achieve and measure social and economic development”. The Nordic states are in the category of “happiness” most often; most prominent explanations include such factors as: the quality of governing institutions, reliable and extensive welfare benefits, low corruption, as well as the well-functioning democracy and state bodies. Besides, the Nordic citizens experience a high sense of autonomy, freedom and a high level of social trust and inter-personal communications, which both play an important role in determining life satisfaction. Source: https://worldhappiness.report/ed/2020/#read 

Hence, during a last decade, the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network  is publishing the World Happiness Report, which contains rankings of national happiness based on quality of life and other subsistence’s factors; as of March 2020, Finland was ranked the happiest country in the world three times in a row. Presently, the Baltic States are within the first 50-states: Lithuania on 40th place, Estonia on 49th and Latvia on the 55th; to compare, Russia is on 71, China on 92 and Ukraine on 122, concluded by Afghanistan on the last 150th.

On people’s satisfaction and happiness index in: 


By the way, there is a special chapter in the 2020-Happiness Report concerning interconnections between the SDGs and happiness. In this category again the dominant positions are taken by the north European states, e.g. Finland, Denmark, Sweden, as well as Germany, France and the UK. Besides, “by unpacking the SDGs”, the authors discovered some of the SDGs’ relations with the well-being: e.g. SDG-14 (life below water), SDG-15 (life on land), and SDG-17 (partnerships for the goals) to be generally insignificant; whereas, SDG-12 (responsible consumption and production) and SDG-13 (climate action) are “significantly negatively correlated with human well-being”. In general, economic, social, legal and health aspects of SDGs are the most important ranging from 31% for economic to 24% for health to 20% for social and to 17% for legal.

More in: https://worldhappiness.report/ed/2020/sustainable-development-and-human-well-being/

Country-by-country’s ratings in: https://www.theglobaleconomy.com/rankings/happiness/

“Technical” reflections

Eugene Eteris, EII Director, Copenhagen

Recent international conference in Turiba University, in which I participated as a speaker, made me not only think about the event but also to share some experiences, as the conference was arranged online. There have been some technical things that might be interesting to the perspective participants in such online events.

So far, I participated in a couple of inline conferences and have had some varied impressions. Generally, the teachers and lecturers have to get used to several new “tricks”: e.g. sitting quietly in front of a web-camera and looking into its eye;  

Then, you have to know pretty good the subject which you are supposed to talk about as reading from a paper is almost impossible (the viewers would immediately grasp that).

 As a rule, before the online conferences (and so is, actually, with all other types) the organizers would have your written presentation; then, you are supposed to comment the tables that the spectators/viewers (and other online participants) would see. There is no way that you can read the tables, otherwise that spoils the whole idea of the “conference”; that is, you have to comment on the table you are showing. There might be problems with changing the speed that the tables/slides of your presentation on the screen would not change as quickly as you’d like.  Anyway, that was my experience; though I might be too captious…

Usually, organizers need your connection to the Facebook; somehow without it it’s difficult for them to go around (?!). To my mind, there is no need to have a Facebook profile to enter and follow the debates; viewers must be able to engage in the debate and ask questions directly during the discussion using the comments section below the video screen; that didn’t happen this time. At the same time, it must be possible to use the “Like” button to pose questions to participants that should be heard and answered.

What I’ve been missing much generally was the lack of communication with “the audience” and/or a dialogue with other participants; maybe it was due to the pandemic: I was driven to the university and after the presentation I was driven back to the hotel to my almost complete isolation… It gives a lot of time to productive thinking! 

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