The Quest for Growth by Michael Shanks (auth.)

By Michael Shanks (auth.)

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Sample text

So far our analysis has dealt with the industrial states constituting the heartland of western Europe. Before turning to the eastern European countries, one should look briefly at the smaller and more peripheral nations of the- western part. THE SMALLER COUNTRIES The Scandinavian world contains two states associated with EFTA. Iceland, which became an EFTA member in 1970, has a high-wage and inflation-prone economy (resulting from an acute and endemic labour shortage) revolving around fish. }ised than Sweden, with an economy heavily based on timber and paper, would have been a full member of EFTA but for Soviet political pressure.

And East Germany are interested in 'co-operation agreements' with west European firms under which they supply items for these firms under contract, using western know-how. The Soviet Union is also interested in persuading western firms to undertake major projects in Russia on long-term credit, as Fiat has done at the Togliattigrad motor plant and other western firms in the huge Kamaz truck complex, and to take a stake in the development of natural resources in Siberia. The sheer size of the Russian market makes such projects more interesting to western firms than the more limited opportunities open in the smaller Comecon countries.

At the same time the lack of foreign exchange and the rigidities of the system - the absence of a freely-functioning capital market and the severe restrictions on entrepreneurial innovation- have prevented the eastern European countries from boosting their economies by the import of western capital and consumer goods or technology. At the present time it would appear that in real terms the gap in living standards and economic performance between western and eastern Europe is widening rather than narrowing, as it seemed to be in the 1950s.

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