Jonas Pikūnas Boston spent many years working for banks and now writes and speaks about banking, finance and economics.
In the latest World Economic Outlook, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for the first time included Lithuania in the group of advanced economies. Until now the IMF had qualified our country as an emerging market economy.
Lithuania is scheduled to become the 19th member of the European single currency next year. Although the final decision on this issue will not be taken by the finance ministers of the EU countries until the beginning of July of this year but it seems that the switch from the Lithuanian litas to the euro from 1 January 2015 is already sealed, - provided there won't be any suprises.
Remittances are playing an important role in the Lithuanian economy, contributing to economic growth and to the livelihoods of many Lithuanian families. Since many EU countries opened their labor markets to Lithuanian workers, the financial inflows to the country have grown to almost 1.2 billion euros per year, the Lithuanian central bank said in 2012.
Remittances are now worth almost one quarter of after-tax wages bill in Lithuania or 3.8 per cent of country’s GDP.
Actually, Lithuanians living or temporary working outside the home-country sent in 2011 more money home to their families than the country received through the foreign direct investments, which amounted to 1.05 billion euros same year and even less - 649 million euros - in 2012.
More than three-quarters of the total is thought to be from Britain, where the majority of Lithuanian migrants moved following the expansion of the EU in 2004. Other contributing countries were the U.S., Ireland, Sweden, Spain and others.
Remittances are especially important in times of economic downturn. In the midst of the 2008 financial crisis, money sent from overseas provided to many Lithuanian families a sort of stability and certainty. On the macroeconomic level, it also helped to maintain consumption, provide the necessary capital for private sector and withstand pressure for the currency, the litas, devaluation.
Remittances are not a new phenomenon to Lithuania, being a normal concomitant to migration which has long been a part of history of the Lithuanian nation. Lithuania was heavily dependent on remittances received from its emigrants during the period of the First Republic of Lithuania in 1918-1940.
Lithuania needs as much help as it can get to catch-up with the rest of the European Union in terms of the standard of living, which is 30 per cent below the average for the 27 EU nations, according the latest annual EU survey.
At the beginning of June help was supposed to come in the form of dozens assorted industrial leaders, academics, economists, and financiers from all over the world.
They participated in the fifth World Lithuanian Economic Forum that took place in Vilnius.
The Forum is a continues initiative that attempts to harness the goodwill, ideas and connections of people from all over the world who either are of Lithuanian decent or have connections to Lithuania.
The first Forum was held in 2009. A lot has happened since then. Lithuania has battled with consequences of both financial crisis and austerity measures. Unemployment has remained stubbornly high. Emigration has peaked. And although healthy economic growth has been recorded for couple of years in a row now, many people who still struggle with uncertainties, has yet to see the benefits of expanding economy.
All the Forums held so far, including and perhaps especially ones in London (2011) and Chicago (2012), have hoped to raise the Lithuanian diaspora’s engagement in economic and commercial development of the country to new levels.
How have they done so far?
Sure, there have been lots of talks and discussions.
But we have not seen yet any concrete initiatives and objectives agreed at the Forums either on how to bring business people and bright minds back home to Lithuania, or how to engage with the diaspora as a way of boosting tourism and improving Lithuania’s image abroad.
If the Lithuanian global network is to truly benefit and reinvigorate the country in a time of need, it needs to take concrete actions and make a difference.
I’ve always been a little cautious of proclaiming anything "the greatest”, but no doubt that the documentary movie “The Other Dream Team” has indeed become one the greatest Lithuania’s marketing campaigns in the US.
With a large number of shows ran across the country and positive reviews published worldwide, “The Other Dream Team” managed to hit on some universal truth that will be remembered for years to come by everyone who watched the movie and loves basketball.
“The Other Dream Team” won viewers’ admiration for a hart-breaking underdog story, good directing and the Lithuanian national basketball team’s unusual connection with the Grateful Dead.