Transcript of Richard Durana’s talk at the Bratislava Austrian Economic Summit, given on June 24th, 2013. Transcribed and edited by Kenli S.
Allow me to quickly introduce INESS and what we are doing. As we are a group of like-minded people maybe it will be useful to know what we are doing, and maybe we could cooperate on some projects in the future.
INESS is a leading—not only free-market, but economic—think-tank in the country. We dominate all major media, do analytical work, publish policy papers, and prepare reforms for legislation. We meet with politicians to discuss things, and we also write and publish books.
We organize international and domestic conferences, educational events like the International Liberty Camp (happening right now), Austrian Economic, entrepreneurial, and other kinds of camps. The scope of our activities is really broad.
Now, let me tell you about the Price of the State, which is our flagship educational project. This project explains public expenditures to common laymen, common students, common entrepreneurs, whoever.
We do this because the people who deal with free-markets are mainly in academia; they are university professors and people that speak at various educational events. However, the audience that these persons can target is very limited. They are mainly students who presumably must be at least somewhat interested in the topic that you are going to talk about. Or they are people who are already on your side of the barrier, so you don’t have to convert people with a speech. You don’t have to convert people to your thoughts.
Thus, we are trying to develop tools that can help spread our ideas to the overall population in the country—not only in Slovakia, but as you will see, in Europe and other countries as well—about:
1. What is the size of the government and the state,
2. What is the impact of this on the lives of the everyday citizen, and
3. What the people can do about this.
Before I start with the Price of the State project, I will give you a very short situational appraisal of Slovakia. I know that we are the most independent country in the world—as nothing depends on our country.
Maybe you will find this helpful to understand why we are doing the things we are doing. This is how economic slowdown hit our country: as you can see, in 2007 and 2008 we were the fastest growing country in the whole of Europe. We were growing by 10% annually and we were called “The European Tiger” or “The Central European Tiger”.
This was mainly a result of reforms that were enacted some 10 years ago that introduced private providers to the pension scheme. I can also say that we were the first country in the region to introduce a flat tax. Due to this, we became rather attractive to foreign investment, leading many foreign investors to come to the country.
Right now, Slovakia is the biggest automotive producer in the world calculated by the number of cars manufactured per capita. Also, many high-tech industries came to the country. Now we are also producing a lot of these electronics. There is Samsung and other producers.
As an open and very small economy, we were obviously significantly hit by the crisis. You can see this by the troubles faced by producers in the country as well as by what happened with unemployment. In 2007 we had roughly 7.5% unemployment, and now we have almost 15%. These are the consequences—not only of the economic recession—but also of the bad policies adopted by our government.