Tuesday, November 2, 2010

A No-Brainer

The fundamental issue of the current election campaign is whether Moldova sees its political and economic future with Europe or with Russia.

The parties are basically lined up as follows:

  • Pro-Russia:  Communists, Social Democrats, United Moldova, Humanists, Equal Rights, Fatherland
  • Pro-Europe:  Liberals, Liberal Democrats, Our Moldova, National Liberals, European Action Movement
The main omission from the two lists above are the Democrats, who believe that they can integrate Moldova into both the European Union and the post-Soviet space.

It's a big decision, so lets do a little research first:  Let's try to figure out, using statistics, whether Russia or Europe is the more attractive to Moldova, both politically and economically.

Measure 1 - Democracy

These are the latest (2008) indices published by the Economist Intelligence Unit.  10 is fully democratic while zero is tyranny.  No value was recorded for the European Union as a whole.  It's revealing that, even under communist rule, Moldova was significantly ahead of Russia in promoting democratic values.  She still has something to learn from the Europeans though.  Round 1 to Europe.

Measure 2 - Press Freedom

This 2009 index is from Reporters Without Borders.  The scale is the other way around now - 0 is free while 100 is not free.  No value has been recorded for the EU, but, contrary to appearances, Denmark does have a value - 0!  Moldova obviously still has its problems in this area, although I would wager that the 2010 index will show considerable improvement.  Russia, where the state controls much of the media and independent media practice self-censorship, wallows at the bottom of the field.  Round 2 to Europe; Europe leads 2-0.

Measure 3 - Corruption

We need to flip the scale back again to read these values from Transparency International - 0 is corrupt while 10 is transparent.  Denmark is one of the three most transparent countries in the world.  Moldova is considered a little cleaner than Russia, but lags behind most EU members (even including the home of the Cosa Nostra!).  Round 3 to Europe; Europe leads Russia 3:0.

Measure 4 - Life Expectancy

This axis show the number of years which, on average, a new-born baby can expect to live in each of the countries listed.  Russia fares poorly, due to its alcohol problems, fatty diet and poor safety standards.  The EU, on the other hand, does very well, just a few years behind top-performer Japan.  Round 4 to Europe; Europe leads 4:0.

Measure 5 - Human Development

The Human Development index is a metric the UN uses to measure how well societies meet their needs of their citizens.  It covers a wide range of factors - economic, social, educational etc.  1 is developed while 0 is undeveloped.  Russia outscores Moldova because of the economic component of the index which captures its mineral wealth.  Europe is still some way ahead, however, so wins Round 5 as well.  5:0 to the blue and gold.

Measure 6 -  Prosperity

This is a new index, published by the Legatum Institute.  Its aim is to determine which societies are most likely to bring prosperity to their citizens.  Prosperity includes the notion of happiness, as well as the traditional economic definition.  0 is prosperous and 100 is poor.  Moldova, unfortunately, languishes near the bottom of the field.  Russia does a little better due to its relative wealth, however its the European nations leading the way again.  Round 6 to Europe.  Europe leads Russia 6:0.

Measure 7 - Economic Freedom

Moldova has a middling score on the Heritage Foundation's Economic Freedom Index, ahead of Russia but well behind northern European nations such as Denmark and even former communist states such as Bulgaria.
Another round to Europe.  7:0

Measure 8 - Ease of Doing Business

This is a World Bank index, where the scale is a ranking - 1 is the easiest country in which to do business while 183 is the hardest.  Denmark is a star performer, while Russia shares her half of the table with North Korea and Zimbabwe.  Moldova is middling, and has plenty to learn from the European nations higher up the rankings.  Round 8 to Europe; 8:0

Measure 9 - GDP per capita

These IMF figures record the traditional measure of a state's wealth.  On this measure Russia not only performs better than Moldova, it also edges out an EU member, Bulgaria.  That relative success notwithstanding, Russian GDP per capita still works out to be a fraction of that for the EU as a whole.  Round 9 to Europe; Europe leads 9:0 going into the final round.

Measure 10 - Market Size

This chart looks at the total GDP of Moldova's potential trading partners, with the aim of determining which presents the greatest potential for Moldovan exporters.  The little blue smudge on the left is Russia, while the 16 trillion dollar bar on the right is the European Union.  The referee blows his final whistle and Europe wins with a slam dunk 10:0.


Well, it's pretty clear.  Moldova has little or nothing to learn from Russia in the fields of democracy and human rights, while she has a lot to learn from Europe.  In the economic sphere, Russia only appears powerful relative to Moldova's weakness, and Moldova actually has far more to gain from a deep economic relationship with Europe.

And so, in order to ensure that Moldova has a brighter future, it is crucial that she opts for Europe on November the 28th.  All of us need to get that message out every time we meet an eligible voter!  Please feel free to use the analysis above at will if you think it will help the cause.


I need to just make one final comment about the Democrats.  While Moldova should try to maintain productive and friendly relations with Russia, the idea of moving in both directions at once is nonsense.  In medieval times the principle was employed in an instrument of torture known as the rack, and usually ended up in the death of the subject.  Neutrality equals neglect, not security, and Russia doesn't need to get to Europe across a Moldovan bridge.

Europe is looking for a clear statement of intent from the Moldovan electorate on November 28th, not for dilly-dallying.  If that statement comes, then the future is bright.  Visas will be lifted, Moldova will acquire candidate status and her legislation, public sector and economy will start to be upgraded to European standards.  Grant money and investment will start to flow, creating good jobs and a modicum of prosperity.


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