When I meet a foreigner for the first time, the moment I start a conversation about Romania, it seems as if we are discussing a topic where each of us has a completely different view. This proves that there is a significant gap between how people see Romania and what the actual reality is. That makes me determined to show people that Romania means culture, talent and technology.
What I have come to understand, in the past few months of working for Invest Romania, is that if I want that gap to disappear I must get involved. I have always been a believer in leading by example and I feel that the current circumstances, as well as the team I work with in this government, are the best way to start a trend to change perceptions.
That is why we started working on a story that tells the truth, on the very first day. A truth that is free from bias, misconception and prejudice and that shows that the many ‘all-nighters’ and weekends we have spent in the office translate into making our country better.
Moreover, the idea behind this story is that it is applicable at all levels in some particular way, starting with the central government. Every ministry knows what its strengths are and where it can affect change; the same way every town hall and county council are aware of how competitive they really are. If you think about it, this story can be translated into a promotion platform that any administration unit in the country can use, to show the world what their people are good at and how they can add value. Let’s start with the big picture.
Romania is expected to have a five per cent economic growth this year, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF). FDI has increased by 22.7 per cent year-on-year, in the first six months of 2016. This growth trend translates in more than 40,000 lives that have been changed by getting a new job.
However, if you look closer, you will see that this type of growth cannot be achieved unless you have a strong foundation. Let me give you a few examples: the participation of women in science, in Romania, is above the EU average; over 100,000 people work in ITC, a strategic sector that is expanding horizontally in other high value-add industries such as aerospace, automotive or even agriculture; 97 per cent of Romanian students study English at colleges and a portion of them also study a second foreign language.
These are some of the engines that are pushing Romania forward. We are slowly, but surely, shifting from a cheap labour force economy to a value-added, reliable and competitive economy that is based on the hard work of people who are creating products in the country and exporting them all over the world.
The Dacia Duster is one of these Romanian best-sellers all over the EU, Asia and the Americas — it is strong, competitive and very reliable. This is what Romania is like now — strong, competitive and very reliable. That is how I see Romania!
I am aware that we still have a lot of work to do to change the perception of the country and to enhance our image. This type of change takes time, a robust strategy and a critical mass. I strongly believe that this government has the potential to make that change.
Why? Well, just look at the volunteers who have been helping us day and night since we joined InvestRomania. Their input has been instrumental in creating InvestRomania’s infrastructure — the website, our guidebook and our video, as well as industry presentations. Such was the assistance of the institutions that believed in us!
Let me give you another example of Romanian creativity that is helping improve the country’s image. At the beginning of October, a hackathon weekend, with more than 100 participants, took place at the government, with the objective of creating new technology tools for the public administration.
Once again, I am aware that a country’s image is an emotional subject. These actions make us proud of our country and of its people. Building this new image is a work in progress but we are constantly showing that Romania deserves an honest image; one that is not influenced by the perceptions of the past and one that takes into account the amazing progress people are building here.
I am sure we are taking the right steps when I hear from foreigners that my team is made up of individuals with true integrity, and that Romania deserves more of them — that is how the government becomes an asset for the Romanian people.
The views expressed in this opinion editorial are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Emerging Europe’s editorial policy.