Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Vaene Eesti

I don't really notice it that much, mostly because the people I tend to hang out with aren't that affected, but sometimes it really strikes you how poor Estonia still is. An article in one of today's Estonian newspapers was talking about wages and how the vast majority of people make around 8000EEK net a month (about $800). Only 13% of the country makes over 12000EEK a month which is astounding. Imagine the top salaries in Toronto being $1200! It amazes me that anyone can afford anything here on these salaries, just out of interest I've looked at a bit of real estate in town and the prices here are astronomical. For a 50-80 sqaure meter apartment in the Old Town or close by you'd probably pay somewhere between $2-300,000 minimum. Clearly the vast majority of Estonians have no hope of ever affording any of these apartments which is why places like Lasnamae and other suburbs are so packed. I also don't find things like food or clothes in the major shops that much cheaper here than compared to Toronto. Gas is about $1.30 a litre. Certain things are cheaper: booze, electricity, restaurants, public transport, etc.

Now, it's not all doom and gloom. Estonia's economy is sizzling, last years growth was over 10% and most expect similar results this year and next and there is further integration with the rest of the EU. And consider this, before WW2 Estonia was a wealthier nation than Finland. Now Finland is one of the richest countries in the world. I personally think that Estonians are smart enough and hard working enough so that the question isn't if Estonia can catch up, just a question of when.


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