[This post introduces our newest nowEurope contributor, Toby Elwin, writing from Boston - a regional US tech hub once on par with Silicon Valley, but recently finding themselves fighting for relevance. Toby also has deep career experience working in Hungary and China. He'll be looking at Central Europe from a comparative perspective - Steve Carlson]
My interest in Hungary and the region stems from an opportunity to study an advanced business degree in Budapest. After living in America and China, two countries that dominate both their region and much global news, Hungary, the size of Pennsylvania, was a distinct change of perspective.
In 1999 I arrived in Hungary, straight from China. The country and many of the seven countries that border Hungary were shaking off decades of planned-economy paralysis. The region was entering a renewed sense of opportunity and Hungary was stabilizing its voice in the region, in Europe, and in the world.
The opportunity, and the challenge that lay ahead, for Hungary and others in the region was to set the proper goal. The more I worked and studied at Central European University, the more I discovered a region, from the Czech Republic through Mongolia, full of immensely brilliant, able people to have an impact on a global scale. With a brilliant work force, many in government chose a low-wage competitive strategy. I felt then, as I do now, the race to the bottom is a short-term solution.