Can Count Dracula Save Romania's Economy?

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in ,,, at 12/16/2010 01:16:00 PM
The title is more apropos than you would think. When we last talked about Romania, it was in the clutches of an IMF standby agreement as one of the Soviet satellite countries that ran into a bad balance-of-payments situation in June of 2009. The recently Economist featured a downcast article on Romania's economic prospects going forward. In some respects, it's a matter of "political risk" being an unsettled matter in the country:
Nor are foreign investors queuing up to take advantage of Romania’s fertile soil and beautiful scenery or its flexible, cheap and multilingual workforce. Services are particularly underdeveloped. “This could be the back office of Europe,” says a foreign banker, who tries hard to stay optimistic. It could also be a regional hub for companies interested in smaller neighbouring countries. But investors like certainty, not the murky, jerky decision-making that typifies Romanian politics.
Aside from the difficulties attracting foreign investors due to political shenanigans, there's the matter of promoting tourism. For better or worse, Romania is associated with Vlad Basarab Tepes, also known as Vlad the Impaler or "Count Dracula" as immortalized in fiction. In scenic Snagov Lake lies the island of Snagov, whose monastery contains his grave. Despite his global renown (or notoriety depending on your perspective), this site should be of at least as much historical interest as Lenin's Tomb or the Mausoleum of Mao Zedong. Yet, despite the picturesque location, efforts to make it into a tourist destination have been haphazard at best:
A good example of good intentions but poor results comes from Snagov, an island monastery where the real-life Dracula, a prince called Vlad Tepes, is supposedly buried. With much fanfare, the authorities have built a bridge across the lake, a beauty spot, in the hope of attracting tourists. That is welcome: past governments perversely shunned Romania’s most famous son. The new tourism minister, Elena Udrea (a vivacious and wealthy blonde), wants him to take centre stage. She will lead foreign ambassadors on a “Dracula tour” of his castles in the summer. But for humbler visitors, finding the unsignposted way to Snagov is hard. The ill-built bridge is an eyesore. A rough-spoken monk demands a hefty fee and refers to local gypsies (Roma) as “scum”.
It's not quite a Disneyfied attraction just yet. Call it a regrettable metaphor for lack of progress -

Once I had the rarest rose
That ever deigned to bloom
Cruel winter chilled the bud
And stole my flower too soon