March 9, 2010—A Tangent
Life was good this weekend. I took an adventure to Balti, the second-most populated city in Moldova, sitting at a hefty 100,000 or give or take a few ten-thousand. The whole people-working-abroad thing really throws off any estimates you can make about Moldovan cities and villages. My village/city (depending on who you talk to—young adult or adult) for example is supposed to be a little less than 15,000 by the books, but most people say that 10,000ish live there now. The thought that gets conjured up in my mind this that of Detroit where they say it can feel like a ghost town with its shrinking population and its continued presence of massive architecture. The difference between here and the states is that here a large percentage of the families have one or two parents or children working abroad or in a major city such as Balti causing the population of a city or village to usually be less than what is advertised on the books. You might say that this happens quite a bit in the states, because small towns on the whole ship off their young to the closest state university where they become learned in one of the various trades or pseudo sciences offered there. This holds true for the most part in the states, although the big difference is that the family who sends/loses their young off doesn’t traditionally depend on the income of that individual for sustenance, whereas in Moldova that story is all but rare.
One recent estimate that I heard was that roughly 1 of the 4 million “living” in Moldova work abroad and in almost every case they send remittances back to host country nationals. You could call the remittances double-edged swords though because they on the whole lead to a pervasive problem that the world as a whole deals with all the time—inflation. Like many countries, inflation is a tough problem that Moldovans have to deal with. Interest rates on a good day at non-profit organization come to rest at 15 percent and on a bad day can reach the 25 percent range. Over a period of a loan you can imagine what kind of difference this would make in regard to the difficulty of paying this loan off or even with dissuading you from ever taking the loan in the first place. There are many reasons for this phenomenon, but one of the biggest causalities is the fact that so many people work abroad and bring cold hard cash back across the border, after years of high rates of these remittances the average price of goods in general has risen considerably. These things are natural, if the average disposable income of a population rises, the overall price of commodities tends to rise, bringing on unavoidable comments by the geriatric community such as “I remember when bread only cost a dime and seeing a movie at the local cinema was a quarter for the works”, the problem is that average prices usually rise with real average wages. What has happened in Moldova is that “real” local wages haven’t risen, but Moldovans working abroad has indirectly given a “boost” to the local price of goods and services. The more people work abroad the higher the price becomes for people working and staying at home. You can imagine what it is like for a large family, whose parents work at home or a local factory and have to continually put up with increasing prices.
In the States we enjoy quite the opposite of this, with a large influx of cheap labor from various countries; predominately from south-of-the-border countries such as Mexico (another popular country for remittances) because of this we enjoy the lower-than-average prices of goods. You could sit back and say that is great for us, but I guess the point of this is not necessarily to make a point, but maybe to share a less vocalized view of working abroad for a brief moment. Do what you will with it and enjoy your day… I am tired.
I apologize for my serious tone in this post, I realize I haven’t taken an air of solemnity like this in quite some time, I honestly sat down to describe an adventure to Balti that I took last weekend. Maybe you will get the alternative peachy-keen version tomorrow.
Until then or another then.