What Greece can learn from Finland

Despite being half its size, Finland actually surpassed Greece in first quarter GDP last year. What is Finland doing right, and what is Greece doing wrong?

Dimitri Messinis/AP/File
A replica of an ancient Drachma coin is pictured outside the Numismatic Museum, as the main building of the central Bank of Greece is seen in the background in Athens on Tuesday June 5, 2012. Greece's GDP lagged behind Finland's in the first quarter of 2012, despite being twice its size in population.

Greece and Finland are both in the geographic eastern periphery of the euro area, except that Greece is in the south east and Finland is in the north east. In terms of population, though Greece is almost exactly twice as big as Finland, having 10.8 million people versus 5.4 million for Finland.

However. the most recent quarter, Finland actually surpassed Greece in terms of economic size, despite the fact that Greece has twice as big population. In the first quarter Greece had a GDP of €47.19 billion versus €47.42 billion for Finland. First quarter GDP was for seasonal reasons lower than usual in absolute terms in both Greece and Finland, but since the seasonal effect appears to be basically the same for both countries, this has little or no relevance for their relative position.

So despite being twice as many as the people of Finland, the Greeks can't produce more. To what extent this reflects bad behavior from the Greeks and to what extent it reflects good behavior from the Finlanders can be discussed, I for one think it reflects on both, though mostly the former.

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