Tuesday, 22 August 2017

Gaining influence in the world

The Prime Minister of Slovenia warned on Sunday that the UK position on Brexit is unrealistic and that negotiations are likely to take longer than the UK is assuming. 
Slovenia is a small country on the fringes of the EU.  Its surface area (20,273 km2) is remarkably close to that well-known universal measure ‘the size of Wales’ (20,799 km2), although its population (just over 2 million) is only two-thirds of that of Wales (a little over 3 million).  Its GDP per head is rather lower than that of Wales.  (Contrary to the oft-asserted ‘fact’, Wales isn’t the poorest country in the EU; that belief appears to arise from confusion between countries and EU regions.  Wales is actually a middle-ranking EU country in terms of GDP per head.)  All in all, therefore, applying the criteria normally used in discussions about Wales, Slovenia is ‘obviously’ too small and too poor to be an independent country.  Unfortunately for the Slovenes, they didn’t have a ‘national’ party pointing that out to them, and the country became independent anyway.
Its Prime Minister will, as a result, have more influence and a bigger say over the terms of Brexit than the First Minister of Wales.  Isn’t independence a terrible thing?


Michael Haggett said...

I wouldn't want to detract from your point, John. But Slovenia's GDP has grown rapidly since it became independent from what was then Yugoslavia, and on one particular measure of GDP, purchasing power standard, it has now overtaken Wales. I wrote about it a few years ago, here.

Anonymous said...

Currently traveling in Slovenia and they have plenty of electrified train lines with very regular services.

John Dixon said...


What? A country on the fringes of the EU becomes independent, and its economy booms? The problems which come with independence are never-ending, it would seem!

Take your point about different measures of GDP, and particularly about the use of PPS. I tend to refer to this site, which gives three different measures of GDP, taken from the World Bank, the IMF, and the CIA (although those last ones are much older), and compare the figure for Wales (using 75% of the UK figure) with those for other countries. There's no perfect measure, but it's a rough and ready indication on a comparative basis.

huw meredydd said...

It would be good to have definitive figures to answer the 'too wee, too poor' argument. Are they available anywhere?

John Dixon said...


I'm afraid that's an impossible ask. There are plenty of figures available, but they're all - inevitably - based on making assumptions. And since the assumptions can never be definitive, neither can any figures based upon them be definitive. The result is that it doesn't matter how many figures are produced or how precisely they are calculated (by either side in the debate), they will not be accepted if they don't comply with the assumptions of the 'other side'. The question of whether Wales is 'better off' financially with or without independence is in essence a question to which there can never be an entirely 'definitive' answer.

We can say that there is nothing special about Wales which dooms us to relative poverty, and we can say that independent countries generally end up better off when they take decisions based on their own circumstances rather than the needs of a greater whole. We can also say that countries gaining their independence do not subsequently ask to return to their previous status. Ultimately, it's not where the power resides that determines wealth or economic success, nor is it who exercises that power, it's about the policies pursued.