Randy McDonald (rfmcdpei) wrote,
Randy McDonald

[BLOG-LIKE POSTING] Moldova's Human Exports

One nice side-effect of the Liquor Control Board of Ontario's monopoly over the sale of alcoholic beverages in the entire province of Ontario is that its captive market of 12.5 million people makes it one of the largest purchasers of alcoholic beverages in the world. It's this size that makes it possible for Ontarian consumers to enjoy relatively rare beverages, like 2003 Corten Merlot from the Cahul Region of southern Moldova that I bought last Monday. I like buying foreign wines, particularly inexpensive wines from regions on the verge of some sort of First World status. Consider it my effort to encourage convergence.

Moldova, as it happens, shares with Georgia a long tradition of wine-growing, something that ensured Moldova a prestigious position in the domestic wine supplies of the former Soviet Union. Unfortunately, Moldova also shares with Georgia--and the whole of the South Caucasus--a post-Soviet history marked not only by the complete breakdown of the prior integrated Soviet economy, but also by the sort of pervasive degeneration that hits small peripheral territories when they're abruptly cut off from the centre. The quality of the peace enjoyed in Moldova with the secessionist, Russophone, and quasi-Stalinist district of Transnistria, as cited by Joel at Far Outliers, is further exactly the wrong sort of peace, without any conflict or substantive pressure to force a resolution of the situation. It's not surprising that, as I wrote last November in a post examining the unlikeliness of Moldova joining Romania, that Moldova's serious existential crises are propelling it in bad directions for its future.

This isn't likely, though, simply because the Moldovan state has acquired despite itself an innate inertia of its own, with mass emigration sapping its work force and its energies, the ethnic conflict dominating its conservative post-Communist political elites’ focus, and little incentive for innovation on any front. Moldova, once a prosperous component of the Soviet Union, is now the poorest country in Europe. Moldova's now of note as a source of sex slaves and organ sellers, which makes the prospect of Romanian and/or European Union expansion all the more difficult.

And why not? Moldova is poor, Moldova is rural, and Moldova's prospects are blocked. Why wouldn't Moldovans emigrate massively? Neighbouring Romania is a considerably wealthier country with more prospects than Moldova, but its post-Communist demographic history has been marked by massive emigration, with (for instance) one million Romanians living in Italy. Why wouldn't mass emigration be a perfectly rational solution for Moldovans tired of their poverty? Moldova's work force might be depleted, true, but the Moldovans abroad enjoy higher living standards while the Moldovans remaining behind benefit from the fact that their country stands just behind Tonga in the percentage of its GDP derived from remittances, in Moldova's case by the million or so people scattered across the Russian Federation, Romania, Turkey, and southern Europe.

This sort of mass emigration isn't going to help Moldova develop securely, though. It will help Moldova become a depopulated periphery, true, with its potential work force gone off to work in larger and wealthier countries, leaving the old behind to tend the country through its collapse, but it won't help Moldova grow. That's why Moldova needs to develop export goods apart from its population, like its wines: The 2003 Corten Merlot was a good one.
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