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Here we are. What's next? Looking back at the prelude to the economic crisis, Dag Kirsebom – CEO at Media Menu, co-author of the book 'Hard Landing, the fairy tale of the rise and fall of the Estonian economy' and opening speaker at the Swedish Chamber's of Commerce in Estonia first Business Lunch Seminar 2010, quoted the American economist Joseph Stiglitz:

"If the reason for the price is high today is only because investors believe that the selling price will be even higher tomorrow – when 'fundamental' factors do not seem to justify such a price – then a bubble exists."

Arranged in cooperation with the Danish-Estonian Chamber of Commerce the seminar was the first this year in a continued series of Business Lunch Seminars initiated by the Swedish Chamber of Commerce in Estonia.

- Is it disinformation or simply lack of insight?, continued Dag Kirsebom and presented a couple of additional quotes:

"Estonia is not in an economic crisis." (Andrus Ansip, Estonia's Prime Minister, September 2008)

"The budget is based on the assumption that next year's (2009) economy will grow 2.6%." (Ivari Padar, Estonia's former Minister of Finance, September 2008.

The reality became somewhat different compared to these quotes and the next seminar speaker, Meelis Atonen – Estonia's former Minister of Economic Affairs and Communications 2003 – 2004 and nowadays an entrepreneur at the Estonian currency and gold trader AS Tavid, put Estonia in an international perspective:

- Estonia can perform comparably well, but we depend to 99% on outside impact, said Meelis Atonen. The Euro is not a safe harbor and there is no reason to speak about Estonia or Estonian economy as an isolated marketplace. The risks are higher in the world economy.

- Money has become a thing in itself in the hands of rulers and bankers and it makes money vulnerable, continued Meelis Atonen. Looking back at the ancient Imperial Rome, they managed to keep inflation at 0.4% per year for 250 years (10-260 AD) but during the following 80 years prices increased 20 times and the silver content of their coins were reduced from 60% to 4%.

- It took USA 350 years (1620 – 1974) to build up an external debt of 1 trillion USD and in just another 10 months time the debt doubled and today, some 35 years later, theUS external debt is 44 trillion USD, equaling a 147,312 USD external debt per capita in USA.

- What will happen in the Euro zone considering the economies of Greece, Spain and other Euro countries?, asked Meelis Atonen and concluded with a quote from Voltaire (1694-1778):

"Paper money eventually returns to its intrinsic value - zero."

- 2010 will be a year of reflation just as the latter half of 2009 has been, said the third and last seminar speaker Lars Seier Christensen, CEO at the Danish Saxo Bank A/S. Our bullishness is not grounded on the longer-term sustainability of the stimuli that have been thrown at the developed economies, we believe that the stimuli are likely to convince many investors on the sideline that the recovery is real.

- We expect the cyclical recovery with the absence of risk aversion from 2009 to continue and prevail during the first half of 2010. But, make no mistake; the current improvement in financial markets, in GDP figures and consumer sentiment is no more real than the speculative boom 2003-2006, continued Lars Seier Christensen. We have now entered the third of three major credit-induced expansions since the mid-1990's.

- One potential trigger for dampening the current recovery could be a sharp decline in economic activity in China.

- The private sector, both households and businesses, is deleveraging for the first time in many decades. This is an important step towards re-establishing long-term sustainability where demand is compatible with the costs of servicing debt.

- The problem is that governments are continuing to spend money in order to stand in the way of the deleveraging process now taking place. Moreover, the pattern from the bubbles since the mid-1990s is that it takes an exponentially growing amount of stimulus to keep the debt party going.

- We expect Baltic exports to be back at 2008 levels in 2012 and the market no longer fears a Baltic melt-down, said Lars Seier Christensen. But, do not join the Euro zone! Stick to low taxes and public sector restraint.

- The Euro is a political project and not an economic project, concluded Lars Seier Christensen. Currency unions do not work. The stability pact has been thrown over board. The European Central Bank's independence is strongly challenged. Greece, Italy, Spain have economies being strongly challenged – who will leave first? Think rather about floating, and get rid of dependence on Euro zone politics, tax harmonization and the welfare state time bomb. Countries outside the Euro have freedom to set interest, fiscal and currency policies – and there is no benefit from 'having influence on Euro policy'.

Estonia's possibilities to join the Euro zone January 1st, 2011 is indeed among the top issues on the 2010 agenda, not only for Estonia but also for its foreign direct investors as well as the country's commerce and trade partners. The Swedish Chamber of Commerce in Estonia and its members will continue to take an active part in the debate through coming seminars and our main news channels – www.swedishchamber.ee, focus and e-focus.