Saturday, October 25, 2008

In Sweden we call it a "lågkonjunktur"

The theme of the blog saturday of the incurably entrepreneurial websmurfs is "lågkonjunkturen", or the recession. Myself I will offer a perspective from Estonia and hoping that it can provide some interesting insight into the otherwise so pitch black Baltic economy.

This morning I watched SVT Rapport with Hasse Svens (also here) reporting from an Estonia in crisis. They start with the story of some lunatics who abandoned their little baby (among what looked like rusty rebar in Paldiski), a story which has become a symbol of the recession, and then proceed with riding down an escalator in what looks like Monday afternoon in Gonsiori Selver (my closest proper grocery store). Yes, it's empty, but I'd assume it's because people, unlike financial analysts, have work to do during the days! I consider this so poor reporting I almost have to wear my spin goggles in order not to go completely blind.

Sure enough, I am generally financially agnostic and indeed living in quite a previleged and safe situation - but there is simply no way I can recognize the situation Svens is describing. Yes, estonian food prices have gone up quite significantly, but that's over the last several years, not because of a recession. Also yes, the real-estate market is stone dead, but it has been that for at least six months already (my girlfriend wrote an editorial about "how to make a million kroon - just not buy the apartment a year ago") and I really have little pity for Mr. Lepik who's anticipated a slowdown so poorly that his construction business is slamming itself down into bancruptcy so fast they didn't get to move into their new fancy offices. It's called risk, live with it.

Give me some solid numbers of how people and business are affected instead of spreading FUD, and I may agree that the average guy should start to worry. It's not unlikely Swedbank are losing huge money in the Baltics when previously lucrative risks start to pop, but this is normal and as far as I can see, we are still surviving.

Estonia is still a good as place as ever to be, people are still optimistic and the fishing waters are good. Everywhere I am hearing that a recession is the right time to start a business. May estonians never become as learned helpless as too many swedes are. Unlike swedes in the scene in "Songs from the second floor" (download it here and subtitles here, but I need to delay it -8 seconds), estonians have no trouble getting up from the floor and onto the stool!

"We have sacrificed the bloom of youth, is there possibly anything more we could do now?"

"No, there surely isn't"

What to do when you're in Gothenburg

A friend called me today and asked for where to go in Göteborg. Well, except of course Universeum, I couldn't think of any great things you shouldn't miss, but I just threw together a small Google Map to give an overview:

There is also of course the map of sushi places in Göteborg, but curiously I can of course not embed it in the blog.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Goodbye to us-and-them prejudice

When botanizing in the great videos of, I came across an interesting one with Swedish Hans Rosling of Among many other things, he says:

"I have shown that Swedish top students know statistically significantly less about the world than the chimpanzees [do]" - Hans Rosling, 2006

Go ahead and click the link, or see below for his dense and pretty brief lecture:

Rosling's project is (among other things?) an easily usable frontend to a wealth of databases for laymen to be able to present existing census data in very rich ways. Just as an example, I tried to find some parameters who say something about the development in the nordic countries including Estonia - I chose the density of cellphones and computers per hundred people:

It was really quite tricky to find any parameters which would tell something interesting on just a national level, even more so anything significant in which Estonia "beats" the nordic countries which maybe was a little surprise to me, but anyway, I made a little interpretation of these two graphs.

Firstly - there clearly are computers in Estonia, it should be a little wake-up-call for any colonially minded westeners who are sneering at Estonia, Kazachstan or any of the other post-soviet countries. Once the opening is there, some development goes very fast and indeed few Estonians may have had videogames as kids, but once they started getting computers and cellphones, they cought up fast and are on par with the rest of the western world when it comes to cellphones, and have caught up with at least Finland when it comes to computers.

The second conclusion I make from this data is that cheaper consumer products reach penetration faster than more expensive such. This is true not only for cellphones vs computers, but many other things in society as well - I have at least a hunch of that the more costly the more inertia an issue has, and people renovate the inside of their apartments before they get together and cough up the money to clean up the facade. It makes a lot of difference in the impression of the interested bystander.

I know my reasoning is simple and generalizing, but maybe you have an opinion of your own you'd like to share with us?