Lithuania no longer looks enviously across the Baltic at its well-to-do Nordic neighbours and its capital illustrates why. Self-confident, creative and well-educated, the city typifies how a small nation can realise big ambitions.
A quarter of a century since the collapse of communism and the Eastern Bloc, the Lithuanian capital has quietly become a beacon for how to do business in the Baltics. It has also proved an irresistible magnet to many who have moved (or returned from abroad) to live here.
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But it wasn’t always this way. In 2004, when Lithuania entered the EU, droves of workers emigrated to pursue their fortunes abroad. In the intervening years, however, and despite a rough ride through the financial crisis in 2008, there has been a remarkable turnaround. Government investment to the tune of €200m over the past decade has given the nation Europe’s fastest broadband, while successive mayors have been working to reduce bureaucracy and make it easier to hire talent from abroad. Even the time it takes to start a company has been slashed to just three days.
What’s more, all that effort seems to be paying dividends.The Swiss-based business school’s World Competitiveness ranking saw Lithuania leap six places this year to 28th (a positive step for any country) and the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business ranking puts the Baltic state at a presentable 24th. Statistics can lie but these figures are backed up by the many businesses who have moved here and made concrete investments.
Google, Uber, Nasdaq and Russian firm Game Insight have already set up offices in Vilnius and their collective presence has convinced many promising graduates to stay on in the city.
Technology start-ups in Vilnius are also making the most of the swift internet and industrious workforce. Last year set a record, when the number of employees and capital raised by start-ups doubled. Both are expected to grow again in 2015.
Much of what Vilnius’s tech-savvy businesses are creating is invisible but their success breeds tangible confidence. There has been a cultural shift towards the local, the carefully made and the plain interesting.
Read full article with pictures and stories from Vilnius at Monocle Issue 86.
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