Slovak economy booms - but Slovaks see gloom

The Slovak economy is booming with a a record-breaking 9.8 percent growth in the third quarter of this year. It's driven by increased production in automobile and electro-technical industries and it's seen unemployment reach a historic low at 9.2 percent in October. But Slovaks don't seem too impressed by these figures.

The GDP growth took everybody by surprise. Ivan Sramko, the Governor of the Slovak National Bank.

"The figure exceeded our expectations. If we have the correct interpretation of these data then we forecast that the economy will grow at such a high rate at least until the middle of next year. We are happy that the growth registered so far has been caused by foreign demand therefore it keeps the inflationary pressure away for the time being"

Analysts said that statistics have finally begun showing the positive results of economic reforms launched by the former government of Mikulas Dzurinda. Ordinary people seem to disagree, at least judging by the results of an opinion poll released on the day of the anniversary of the Velvet Revolution that led to the fall of communism in Czechoslovakia 17 years ago. Almost 40 percent of Slovaks think that their standard of living is worse now than in 1989. Only 30 percent have a positive view on this topic. Sociologist Katarina Strapcova tries to explain the gap between the positive macroeconomic indicators and the negative perception of ordinary people.

"The attitude of people is not always consistent with what is happening in reality. It depends on what they really know about the subject but it is subjective knowledge, and what they feel about it. The good economic performance doesn't automatically means that all people's standard of living in increasing because it is important to see how this growth is distributed within the population so does it mean an improvement for a small or large group of people."

Q: How important is comparison between people when they speak about their standard of living? I have the feeling that many people look at what their neighbour has and then decide whether her or his standard of living is better or not.

"The comparison is a very important aspect of social life. It means that our judgment of ourselves is relative and is based on similarities or dissimilarities with our social with our social context, people around us. It is also important to whom people choose to relate to, people are winner or loser depending on whether they choose to compare to the celebrity group or homeless people group."

Strapcova admits that the level of economic education is relatively low in Slovakia and it may affect people's perception of what is going on around them. Additionally she thinks that the media don't cover business topics properly. Martin Haraj a business reporter with a major radio station in Slovakia agrees.

"I think that business reporting in Slovakia should cover topics of interest for ordinary people but in such a way that it offers them useful information and does them a service. For example here often people don't know that difference between debit and credit card. We have to report things in such a way that we also educate people, to advise them how to make money and how to spend them wisely."

All in all one questions remains: How long will it take until the majority of Slovaks start to feel the benefits of economic growth in their own pockets? Well, economists avoid giving a clear answer but the European Commission expects Slovaks to reach the EU average standard of living in 2015.