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It is not about the generation or a person's background, it is about setting the standard

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Can you share some background to the 19th PortoroΕΎ Business Conference theme of "Living among cyclops and robots" - a challenge that is being addressed globally?

The mission of the conference is to open relevant questions to the business and politics. Today, it seems that memories of the crisis are still fresh, although people are looking forward. While preparing the conference program, I usually visit major conferences worldwide to discover the important questions for the next conference. This conference is about strong leaders, while it can be seen that the crisis has softened, strong leaders appeared worldwide. To paraphrase using Homer's, The Odyssey, which describes cyclops who have positions of Gods but look like humans, it seems to me a good parallel to describe a trend that we are among "cyclops" and the next big trend are robots. Look at the US where studies show that one robot has pushed out six to seven workers and there are so many unexpected consequences. And for the purpose of the conference we published a book titled "Robots among us", authored by my colleagues and the FELU students of the IMB program.

The event also addresses the topic "Slovenia, EU and the Western Balkan in 2018". What are the issues that are important to highlight?

The conference traditionally focuses on the regional issues and, as you know, there is quite an intensive debate about the EU and the relations between the core (German, France, etc.) and the peripheral (mainly Mediterranean) countries. We add a new group of countries, the so-called sub-peripheral countries, which are not generally observed and are, in our view, the special countries of the former Yugoslavia, Bulgaria and Romania. We are interested to see how the relations among these three groups of countries evolve. With the changes that have happened in the last year, the traditional economics in terms of the concept of the Philips curve is somehow under pressure - there are new trends which are, from the theoretical perspective, difficult to explain; inflation is stagnating but wages are not going up. Employment us increasing.There is growth in the sub-peripheral countries between 2 to 4% and it is hard to explain this controversy.

What are the drivers of the abovementioned growth in the sub-peripheral countries?

Unfortunately, the crisis has hit these countries very hard and the financial system almost collapsed. Things stagnated after the crisis for a long time, but now we observe different tendencies, Romania is growing very fast. It looks that the bubbles are growing again. On the other hand, there are some improvements in Croatia and this has changed the philosophy of which country today has export growth and there are improvements in its current account.


From the monetary perspective, in what direction should there be progress - the Euro area, in fact the whole world, is challenged by cryptocurrencies and blockchain networks? Is this manageable?

I am old enough to have observed similar attempts during my lifetime which did not end so well. I believe that blockchaining will be seen in the future but the crypto... it is difficult to judge what is supporting it. In the EU, if the Euro collapsed, you still have in each Member State the currency and the tax system underlying it. What is supporting cryptocurrencies? So, this looks like a danger, but let's see. Even in Slovenia there was an attempt with a parallel currency in the past but it collapsed. People do not trust it. How safe it is? It seems to me that there are some limitations.

Since the digital economy has entered our lives practically overnight, many business models have become obsolete (e.g. telecommunications vs Viber, What's up, Taxi vs Uber). What should be the basis of digital economy taxation?

Some industries are developing really quickly and the question is how this affects the whole economy. There are different views; Bill Gates just said recently, let's slow digitalization a bit that people will adjust easier. In our book "Robots among us" we show that employment in the most advanced digitalized and robotic countries in EU increased in recent years as new jobs related to the use of new technologies emerged. There is still a lot of room for making taxation and fiscal policies more efficient, for example the profits that are going in the haven countries and the proposal of the Universal Basic Income. I think this will go hand in hand, depending how quickly you will build an economy based on the new trends. We already have good examples in the highly taxed Nordic countries.

How are students gender, socioeconomic status and background related to their performance in the assessment and to their attitudes towards collaboration in general? Also, how does FELU help young people develop the skills they need to solve problems collaboratively?

According to one of my colleagues, two Syrian immigrants at FELU just passed the exam in these days, which is a good sign. We want to have foreign students who respect the standards and we have different experiences. I was in charge of IMB program for the last 24 years and we have a very nice mix of students (many from abroad) who learn from each other. Secondly, teamwork is very important. The projects are designed for the real world and business, and students have to apply it. It is not always good and nice but you have to insist on certain issues. But once you impose the standards, teamwork works, it is not about the young generation or people from different parts of the world, it is about setting the standard.
 

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