When Iveta Radicova, Former Prime Minister of Slovakia, first visited the United States in the 1990s, she caught a glimpse of the Statue of Liberty from the window of the airplane.
“It was very nice. I liked it, but it has one problem,” Radicova said when describing the statue, “Instead of holding a flame, she should be holding a credit card. Because the entrance to the rights and freedoms, and the standard of living we enjoy primarily relies on credits. We are living on the sources of our children, on the next generation,” she said.
Radicova was on campus as part of the Decosimo Lecture Series on Global Business. The Decosimo Lecture Series highlights the increasing interconnectedness between business people worldwide, as well as the increased trade and commerce interdependence among nations.
Her presentation focused on the economic differences between Europe and the US, and her experience leading a country during the European economic crisis.
While Prime Minister of Slovakia, Radicova was a key player in the European Union’s debate regarding the bailout of indebted member nations. She urged European Union (EU) leaders to make the 440 billion-euro ($601 billion) European Financial Stability Facility more flexible. Slovakia was the only Euro member that refused to provide aid for Greece and opposed increasing the fund unless bond investors were forced to take losses on the debt issued by distressed countries.
“To figure out who is guilty for the financial crisis makes no sense. It makes more sense to find the reasons of the problem and then try to solve the problem,” she said.
According to Radicova, the reasons for the crisis include an unsustainable economic structure with the overwhelming majority of jobs in the service sector, lack of job creation, especially in the manufacturing sector, and on-the-job training and education.
The future of the economies of the European Union will depend on an educated workforce with skills in information technology (IT), she said.
“I use an analogy to compare the last century and the new century. The last century belonged to Henry Ford. This century belongs to Bill Gates. What we really need is IT graduates. Europe needs around 1 million IT experts to become competitive in the global economy. The winner of the present economy is the brain,” she said.
Radicova also cited irresponsible behavior of politicians as the main reason for the economic crisis.
“If I had to simply explain it, the main reason for the crisis is the gap between political promises and economic reality. Nobody will promise you more than politicians,” she said.
“This gap created a large amount of debt. When politicians fulfill their promises, it costs something and they pay for it through financing. But they can’t do it forever. It’s not a never-ending story,” Radicova continued.
The Decosimo Lecture Series on Global Business is sponsored by Decosimo, a Top 100 accounting and business advisory firm with offices located in the U.S. and the Cayman Islands. As an independent firm associated with Moore Stephens International Limited, Decosimo also offers the resources of 301 firms across 100 countries. The series is held annually in partnership between Bryan College, the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce, and the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. The series features a guest lecturer who is accomplished in international business or economics.