As titles go, this is a tad trite… It’s a sort of vague ‘taking part is what’s important’ snippet… I could likely list several similar phrases, cliches, etc., and fill a page doing so.
That’s not to say that taking part isn’t important; any number of successful businesses will tell you of the failures they endured during their early days, months, even years… ‘You’re only as good as your last hostile takeover’… or words to that effect. What follows is a fairly disjointed page of musings… connected holistically if at any point in time it appears like rambling.
It’s been an absolute age since I last posted something here, and I’ve made a conscious effort to avoid contributing my own 2 cents (other than comments on the articles of others) on the ongoing refugee crisis, if only because I would realistically only be occupying one of two positions: we help them; we stop them… I think you might guess where I stand on that particular issue.
Some months back, spring perhaps, I sat down with an American, living here as I do, and who had taken the time to get his blog posts into print, and done so admirably I must say… The idea was that we were to talk to some gathered locals and talk about our experiences here, as expats (and I’ve noted before that I dislike the term). Naturally, he spoke of his book, and some amusing stories related to a potential sequel… But I, being the grump that I am, spoke of the economy. I come from a country that saw and still sees, far too much emigration. But a hell of a lot of Croatians coming in to ‘replace’ them… because Ireland is the poster-country for economic recovery I guess, something that’s echoed over and over again – most recently at the AmCham Business Bridge event in Ljubljana.
Four years in Croatia and I’ve seen a lot of talk, and not much in the way of action. I’ve seen an attempt to buy a long abandoned water park, only to be rebuffed by jingoistic aldermen who don’t understand how the flow of capital works, and I’ve seen defaulted land leases kept squirreled away by hamfisted bank officials who think they have it in them to change career paths so late in life… It’s almost like Mao’s China all over again… Everyone smelt steel in your back gardens please, your country needs steel… It’s par for the course really; one side of the ideological divide hold sway in government, while the other tends to dominate local government. Nothing gets done. Except by the expats it seems…and returning Croatians who’ve lived beyond the veil and know what it is to taste success, to see that ceiling, and surpass it. Myself? Business is up in and around 80% for the billing period just gone. It was up over 200% for the period before that. And I expect to see another 100% bump for the final two months of the year. The business is out there, and that’s what frustrates me. I’ve said time and time again that Croatia is a nation of almost limitless potential (hyperbole, yes… but not that much of an exaggeration). The lack of developed industry, the weak economy, all means that if the right path can be found, and a journey begun, that great results can be realised. Croatia doesn’t need to spend its time upgrading, without value, when it can simply start anew on some previously unexplored adventure… Why is solar power not flogged like a dead horse? Zagreb sees around 80 days of sunshine per year… As in non-stop 80 days… 1900 hours. The coast probably sees more. It’s only a matter of time before Macedonia figures out it could probably pave half their barren mountains with solar panels and feed Europe cheap electricity for half the year. But, as always, if the government said it was going to hand out free money, the opposition would find fault (and then complain that nothing gets done).
My business is up… That’s a success. I get paid a proportional amount extra for that increase… That’s its own reward.
Why then do I feel anything but successful? I have seen opportunity after opportunity pass by, not all of them mine, and certainly not all of them easy ones, but what can one man do? Well, maybe one man can do something… Business Bridge was mentioned earlier… And we also had REXPO just a few days ago. At the former the tone was incredibly positive, forward thinking… future technology was discussed, the rebranding of Slovenia as something other than a small country with a small population… Ireland and Estonia (or eStonia as I feel it should be called) were held up as shining examples, and it looks likely that Slovenia will seek to become a sort of Green Energy mammoth, but we’ll see.
REXPO saw much reduced numbers this year, its 4th year operating, but everything I saw there told me that more business was done. Years 1-3 were so crowded that the flashy private booths saw all the attention. This year it was possible to visit all the local authority booths, see what projects were in place to help revitalise urban centres outside of the usual suspects (Zagreb, Split, Dubrovnik)… Some goals are pie in the sky, some are obviously needed… Business was done.
I can sit back and enjoy my spike in workload, and the spike in income, but that’s not enough. I need to see the country doing well, because I want to leave the place a little better off once I’m gone (either permanently or returned to Celtic Tiger Mk.II). Success should be a nation’s reward… When I do well, as small as my outfit is, it should have some knock-on effect… whether that be because I need to hire an additional freelancer for a few weeks, or whether it’s because I sift through my business card collection and dig out two names which appear a good fit for a business idea, or who should at the very least sit down and talk over a cuppa… I’ve done both. The first is a small success. The latter? Well, maybe it’ll help spark a Balkan Beast, rather than a Celtic Tiger…