Everyone must move to Finland right now

So some British think tank called the “Legatum Institute” has published an index of the best countries in which to live. Apparently they’ve been doing this every year for a while now, but it just now caught my eye.

Let me start by saying that I find this index pretty dubious. (N.B., there are a lot of bad international indexes out there. Don’t get me started on the American Heritage Index of Economic Freedom.) The Legatum Institute’s staff appears to be a mixture of warmed-over Thatcherites and recently-unemployed American conservatives. So it’s not surprising that the top 20 countries are dominated by western Europe and the Anglosphere, while the bottom ranks are all former colonies full of brown folk.

To make matters worse, they’re being shifty about their methodology. If you download the report (.pdf), you’ll find that it says it’s using 79 different variables, assigned to nine sub-indexes. But it does not say clearly what these variables are, nor where the information is coming from, nor whether they are weighted to create the sub-indexes. The sub-indexes are not weighted, which is another bad sign — they’re just taking the scores that they’ve generated and averaging them together.

Meanwhile, Iraq and Afghanistan are conspicuously missing. Okay, that could be from a lack of good data. On the other hand, they found enough data to go forward in Sudan, Yemen, and the Central African Republic. And having Mugabe’s Zimbabwe absolutely last makes me say “hm” — I can think of half a dozen places that should be in contention, from North Korea to the Congo — as does the very low rank given to Hugo Chavez’ Venezuela. (I’m no fan of Hugo’s. But Venezuela is the worst country in Latin America? Even after throwing out Guyana and a few other small countries that weren’t ranked, that’s a very large “hm” indeed.)

Having said that, this index is at least interesting. Continue reading

Finnish Parliamentary Election 2007 – Lessons Learnt

Well, as it happens I know even less about Finnish politics than I do about the Italian version, so I thought I’d put up this piece that Aapo Markkanen of Aapotsikko sent me on the recent elections in Finland – Edward Hugh

Finland has chosen its new parliament, and the result was a historic triumph for the centre-right National Coalition Party. The last time the two non-socialist parties had as many seats as they do now was in the early 1930s, and they came near to it in 1960s when the Social Democrats had a disastrous election result. Manuel Alvarez-Rivera has written a thorough background article on Finnish politics for Global Economy Matters, and the blog is also hosting my own piece on the Finnish economy (available here). For further analysis of the election and the ongoing cabinet talks you can visit my personal blog – but right now I’d like to focus on two issues that, in my opinion, were the most important ones in this year’s contest.
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Why Finland?

I just put up a post on the economic situation of Finland. Now I am putting another. Why the sudden interest? What is there about the Finnish economy which could be of interest to more people than the five million or so who actually live there?
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Logging-on Finland

I am trying to follow developments in the Finnish economy. This isn’t always easy since I am linguistically challenged, and the english language press doesn’t have a lot of info. One thing is clear: growth since the start of the century hasn’t been spectacular. Of course drawing any clear conclusions is difficult since the economy seems to be heavily dependent on one tech company and its lumber industry:

Finland’s gross domestic product (GDP) rose 1.7 percent month-on-month in July for an annual rise of 0.9 percent, due to increased activity in construction and services, Statistics Finland (SF) said on Tuesday.

SF also revised the June year-on-year GDP figure to a decline of 3.2 percent versus a previous 3.3-percent decline.

The country’s paper industry was still affected in July by production lost during plant start-ups after mills in the key export sector were shut for 7 weeks from mid-May.
Source: NTC research

You can find the Statistics Finland data here.

China Trade With EU

I’m not very happy with the ‘US Trade Figures‘ post I put up last Friday. I think it’s a glorious mess. The key to the problem is that I tried to deal with two – interrelated but disinct – topics at once: the euro and China trade. So today lets ignore the euro (which has once more resumed the downwards drift, even as I write) and take a bit of a closer look at where we are – in trade terms – with China. (Btw: the planet has finally returned to its orbit, and Brad Setser has an analysis of the US trade data here).

The big item in this weekend’s news is, of course, the agreement reached with Beijing on textiles. The EU textile industry will now have three years to adapt, but since textile manufacturers don’t appear to have taken too much advantage of the ten previous years, it is hard to know whether this will serve any useful purpose. Doubly so, since it is not yet clear how the calculations will be made, and I have the distinct impression that much of the recent surge in imports will now, in effect, be consolidated.

Be that as it may, what about the broader issue?
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The Country Where I Quite Want to Be

The Washington Post has sent a correspondent and a photographer to Finland for three weeks to “figure the place out.”

“Finland just might be the world’s most interesting country that Americans know least about. It has the best school system in the world, some of the most liberated women (the president is female), more cell phones per capita than anyone else, one of the world’s best high-tech companies (Nokia), remarkable information technology of many kinds, …”

Their report is bloglike and relatively interesting. The photos are great. The whole enterprise is a little odd, but hey, why not Finland?

All together Finnophiles!