International -- Readers Report
Info Tech: Sweden's Secret Weapon (int'l edition)
"Busting up Sweden Inc." (European Cover Story, Feb. 22), fails to focus on what is keeping Sweden a strong global competitor: its rapidly maturing high-technology industry. Sweden has made substantial progress in switching from a traditional industrial society to an information-driven economy. While it is true that Sweden is struggling to retain multinational companies inside its borders, it is not alone in this effort. Even the U.S. has seen some of its largest corporations shift operations abroad to slash costs. What is unusual about Sweden is that it's already fostering new growth of the world's foremost information technology (IT), telecom, Internet, and new-media businesses.
An example is the existence of Stokab, Stockholm's advanced optical-fiber network. Because of Stokab, MCI WorldCom Inc. elected to locate in Sweden to expand its banking and financial services. MCI WorldCom was able to connect to Stockholm's Stokab network without spending billions of dollars to build its own fiber-optic infrastructure, as the company was forced to do in London, Frankfurt, and Paris.
Sweden's IT expertise also caught the attention of high-tech companies such as Razorfish Inc. of the U.S., which merged with Sweden's Spray Network in 1998 to create the world's first global digital network. Spray Razorfish will be able to service clients around the world.
Given Sweden's ability to route Europe's Internet traffic around the globe and a rapid growth of Internet service providers, many new companies and corporate partners now use Sweden as an IT hub. With over 21,000 IT companies, Sweden is one of the fastest-growing IT markets in Europe, ranking only second to the U.S. worldwide.
Swedish Trade Council
ChicagoReturn to top
Will Germany Ever Figure Out How to Treat Aliens? (int'l edition)
You present the situation realistically in "Foreigners forever?" (European Business, Mar. 1). It is now obvious that the well-intentioned but pragmatic Chancellor Gerhard Schroder will kill this plan and keep foreigners outside German society. This is bad for Germany and bad for foreigners. It is also a shame for some German media, which give human-rights lectures to Turks on Kurdish issues but overlook the human and legal tragedy caused by these antiquated laws about citizenship.
We Germans could learn a lot from Americans. In recent decades, many Mexican "guest workers" came to the South and Southwest of the U.S. We can assume that lots of them had Mexican passports but will never return to Mexico unless for vacation. This is the situation we have here with our guest workers. Or do you see a difference?
How exactly did the U.S. treat the question of dual nationality and dual passports in these cases? Could the Mexicans keep their Mexican passports and receive double citizenship? Or did they have to opt for one or the other? This is the question that causes the irritation in Germany.
Wolf M. Renner
Giessen, GermanyReturn to top
Why the Japanese Market Isn't So Promising (int'l edition)
Professor Jeffrey Garten misreads the implications of the decision by U.S. firms to buy into Japan Inc. ("What's the most promising emerging market? Japan," Economic Viewpoint, Mar. 1). For the most part, they bought into world-class multinationals. In all events, most purchases were made at substantial discounts. This does not indicate confidence in Japan's domestic economy.
As for the Keynesian pump-priming he alludes to, my projection is that it will fail miserably. The reason is that there is a chronic disinclination to spend that cannot be resolved by throwing money at Japanese consumers or by inflating the money supply. Japanese workers do not spend because they are worried about whether they will lose their jobs. Demography is also working against rising consumption due to the swelling ranks of the elderly, who are anything but mall rats. Taxpayers who face huge bills for recapitalizing the banks and other government spending must put away funds in anticipation of rising taxes in the future. The young are finding fewer prospects for employment, and many may choose to emigrate. In this environment, it is difficult to imagine businesses will invest.
Perhaps the best solution is for there to be thoroughgoing tax reform, e.g., a flat tax. When businesses and consumers see a lower future burden, they will be willing to spend today.
Hong KongReturn to top