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Estonian report Estonian report
by Euro Reporter
2011-04-21 09:27:42
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Nation's financial position improved in 2010

Estonian companies, households and the government all found better financial footing in 2010, paying off debts and increasing assets, according to analysis by the Bank of Estonia. In an April 20 release, Senior Specialist Viljar Vald of the bank's Financial Sector Policy Division wrote that non-financial enterprises reduced their debt liabilities by 3.3 percent last year, while enterprises' assets grew by 1.5 percent, mainly thanks to deposit growth.

Similarly, household assets grew by 2.6 percent, largely spurred by life and pension insurance contributions. Liabilities, meanwhile, dropped 3.7 percent as people paid off their bank loans.

General government assets grew by some 850 million Euros over the year, mainly on the back of asset registration, while government liability dropped by 4 percent. In comparison to the rest of the world, Estonia's economy was a net lender in the fourth quarter of 2010. The net lending of the entire economy was 296 million Euros for the quarter. Net liabilities dropped to 73 percent of GDP by the end of the year.

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The race in scramble to secure rare earths


With China's rare earth industry blighted by claims of toxic pollution, Estonian company Silmet is stepping up production to meet demand for rare earths essential in the manufacture of electrical gadgets and green technologies In the early 1970s, the town of Sillamäe in the Ida-Virumaa region of Estonia had been taken off the map and, over time, given code names such as Leningrad 1 or Moscow 400. Closed off to the world, the Soviet Union began experimenting with a mixture of acids to try to separate rare earth elements. At the time little was known about how to extract these tight-knit elements and how exactly they could be used.

Today, companies around the world are scrambling to get their hands on any number of the 15 or 16 elements which are essential in the production of high-tech gadgets such as iPods and green technologies such as wind turbines.

'Outside of China, there are very few people who know about the hydrometallurgy of rare earths. I believe that the largest concentration of those people are right here in Sillamäe, Estonia,' David O’Brock, CEO of the rare earth supplier, Silmet, said.  Despite the name, rare earth elements are actually fairly common. Several of the elements produced in Estonia including cerium, lanthanum, neodymium, are more abundant in the Earth’s crust than lead and silver. The hard part is finding deposits that can be mined cheaply.

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Customer service remains a problem


Online marketing expert Peep Laja writes that the biggest problem of Estonian businesses is customer service. “Estonians are accustomed to be treated by the service personnel in a mediocre or even poor manner,”
 
He adds that the gap is even greater when a foreigner who is accustomed to good customer service visits Estonia. However, this should also be seen as an opportunity since companies that have good customer relations would stand out from others


        
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