Wednesday, November 12, 2014

COMMENT: If Estonia is so great, why is everyone leaving? | Business New Europe

Earlier in October, the New York Times published the latest in a long series of optimistic profiles of Estonia. By this point so many similar pieces have been written in outlets like The Economist, The Wall Street Journal, and Bloomberg BusinessWeek that one can identify a recipe. First the journalist takes a breezy trip through Tallinn, noting its “European feel” and its clean streets, cobblestones, and old churches. Next the journalist speaks with an entrepreneur in the technology community, highlighting the country’s business-friendly tax policies and its successful incubation of firms such as Skype. Finally, the journalist will offer an extended meditation on Estonia's sleek, high-tech, and internet-friendly government.

The NYT’s article followed this recipe to a T. In language that sounds almost as if it was lifted from Estonia's economic development agency, the article highlighted a “society that lives first and foremost online” where “everyone files taxes on the web within minutes.”

The NYT piece, and the virtually identical articles that have appeared in the publications highlighted above, all make Estonia sound as if it has discovered some sort of secret recipe. Who wouldn’t want to live in a society in which every government service is provided online? Who wouldn’t want to skip the line at the DMV? What person in their right mind would like to continue using arduous paper forms to pay their income taxes?

The problem is that all of these articles miss the forest for one particularly interesting-looking tree. The simple reality is that Estonia is not, as it might appear, a dynamic and forward-looking place, but one of the most demographically distressed countries on earth. Over the past 20 years Estonia’s population has cumulatively decreased by almost 15%. That’s right: one out of every seven Estonians living in the country in 1992 has either died or emigrated.

Complete story at - COMMENT: If Estonia is so great, why is everyone leaving? | Business New EuropeCC Photo Google Image Search Source is www bne eu  Subject is estonia demographics

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