LITHUANIAN QUARTERLY JOURNAL OF ARTS AND SCIENCES
Volume 46, No.3 - Fall 2000
Editor of this issue: Gundar J. King
Copyright © 2000 LITUANUS Foundation, Inc.
THE ECONOMIES OF BALTIC STATES IN TRANSITION
GUNDAR J. KING
Pacific Lutheran University
The transition to a market economy and a social society in the Baltic states is at a half-way point in a most challenging process. It is an encouraging and frustrating, joyful and painful process marked by gains, losses, and events hard to interpret.
It is much more than an economic process. It is also a departure from Soviet rules and institutions, a reconstruction of national identities and values, an adjustment to the democratic institutions of the West, and an introduction to a world-wide explosion of technologies.
It is much more than an economic process. It is also departure from Soviet rules and institutions, a reconstruction of national identities and values, an adjustment to the democratic institutions of the West, and an introduction to a worldwide explosion of technologies.
Academically, it involves almost all disciplines of learning. It requires a close collaboration and increasing cooperation among colleagues across the professional and scholarly, as well as national, and continental confines. In the Baltic states, there is more interdisciplinary dialogue, there is more discussion with neighbors, and there is much new thinking as solutions are sought for old and new problems.
Scholarly research has advanced to the point where serious work is done not only in the labs, fields, offices, and libraries. Today, various national priorities and choices can be formulated individually and discussed collectively. Fortunately, Baltic scholars and intellectual leaders can do both, work in their disciplines, contribute their knowledge to the understanding and resolution of larger issues. This interest, nurtured by the founders of Lituanus over forty-five years, and enhanced further by Conferences on Baltic Studies since 1968, serves the Baltic transition very well. It is also encouraging to know how much fruitful research can be accomplished, here and in the Baltics, with the most minimal funding This research informs us of the many and complicated aspects of the transition. This process of information takes place in our seminars, special Baltic study programs, and at the very important scholarly conferences. It is at the conferences where we learn to understand each other, our points of view, our differences, and our approaches to, problems faced by the Baltic nations. The knowledge thus gained is shared in lectures, electronic communications, conference reports, books and scholarly journal articles.
Indeed, it is the research articles that form the core of scholarly intercourse in the Lituanus, the Baltic Studies Newsletter, the Journal of Baltic Studies, the research of the Bank of Finland Institute of Economies in Transition, and in the country reports of the United Nations Development Programme. The wider audience gained is essential to the transition progress. It is this larger audience that links the scientist and the scholar with other intellectuals and leaders of our communities here and in Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia.
Economic issues are at the core of transition processes. Pauperized by Soviet policies in culture, politics, and economics, Baltic countries have to manage their scarce resources, and have to guide the support of their friends abroad with utmost understanding and care. It is to improve these abilities, that a selection of articles of the Baltic economic transition are presented to the readers of Lituanus. These papers were presented earlier at the 17th Conference on Baltic studies at Georgetown University. The guest editor and the contributors are most thankful to Professor Violeta Kelertas, the editor if Lituanus, and a past President of the Association for the Advancement of Baltic Studies, for this opportunity to share our knowledge of this unusual economic and social transition.
We begin this representative collection of six articles with a call for academic reforms by Professor Edward B. Jakubauskas, a noted human resources economist and a past President of two universities. Professor Jakubauskas is optimistic about Lithuanian opportunities. Progress, however, can and must be accelerated in the learning processes at reformed institutions of higher learning. Delays are costly. Time does not wait.
The next article reminds us, above all, that nothing will be done or done well without supporting values. The best Baltic students already have a great drive to learn and to succeed. They still have to learn a great deal more about the nature of change, cooperation, mutual Trust, and social responsibility.
Dorothy Minkus McKenna, a doctoral student of marketing and a consultant in international trade, brings us the results of two surveys of small and medium enterprises in Lithuania. These surveys show the progress, as well as the limited opportunities and formidable difficulties faced by these economic innovators in a poor country.
Safety expert Dr. Stanley Bačkaitis introduces us to ways of measuring the tragic personal and social cost of highway accidents in the Baltic countries. The magnitude of this loss is comparable to the whole of Baltic defense budgets and is matched by the total grants in aid received by Baltic governments. As the twenty-five fatalities over the recent Midsummer festivities weekend in Latvia show, reckless driving is a pronounced and extremely costly problem in transitional societies.
Professors Bruce Finney and Linda Gibson introduce us to the very important issue of a balanced freedom for optimal national development.
In the last article, just edited for Lituanus, Seija Lainela, editor of the quarterly Baltic Economies, gives us her exceptionally objective assessment of Baltic readiness for Accession to the European Union. Clearly, the principal task is to find and to develop further the very limited economic resources available.
Finally, there is a bibliography of selected articles on business and economic issues. It is intended to raise the readers' interest of Baltic economic development and to provide a ready reference for further study. Almost all of the articles listed provide their own rich references. The collection still in press is the enormously exciting volume of papers contributed and discussed at the 6th Nordic-Baltic Conference in Regional Science held in Riga.
We wish the readers much intellectual enjoyment in learning more about the economic aspects of Baltic transition. We wish you a great success in helping this difficult transition to move along faster.