By Oliva Ward, Toronto Star.
When Toomas Hendrik Ilves was a teenager in an Estonian summer camp near Uxbridge, the last thing he expected was to lead a Soviet-free Estonia. Nor to turn the mouse of northern Europe into the economic tiger that roared, with growth levels that dwarfed those of his struggling southern neighbours.
Nor did the New Jersey-raised Estonian president expect to be the focal point of a bitter, high-stakes global debate over the path to economic recovery.
Ilves will be in Toronto Friday to speak to the Economic Club of Canada.
For conservative economists, Ilves is a name to be conjured with: the man who helped to pull the sputtering country out of its 2008 nosedive and spread the gospel of austerity through the eurozone and beyond. He has forged a reputation for his country as “E-stonia,” one of the world’s most electronically connected countries, ranked first in Internet freedom by Freedom House for three years running.
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Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves waves during a celebration of the 95th Estonian Independence Day on Feb. 24, 2013 in Tallinn. zoom
To critics on the left — such as Nobel laureate Paul Krugman — the success is overrated, and some see him as setting a dangerous precedent for debt-ridden countries struggling with economic ruin.
Last June Krugman, a New York Times columnist, blogged that far from being the “poster child for austerity defenders,” Estonia had made an “incomplete recovery” from a “terrible Depression-era slump . . . better than no recovery at all, obviously — but this is what passes for economic triumph?”
Estonia’s president: From austerity’s poster boy to Internet guru (12)