Wednesday, May 22, 2013
Today, we started with yet more school at EMLYON and then another corporate visit.
Today's lecture revolved around the topic that may have intrigued our class the most--the financial crisis within the European Union and what is being done to alleviate the situation. This crisis involves the same sort of problems the US has faced (property bubbles, banking crisis, collapse of the building sector, etc).
At the heart of the problem is the fact that in the EU, most decision-making is first based on political reasons rather than economic reasons. Perhaps the over-arching reason that the Euro has failed to unify and strengthen the EU economy is that the countries of the EU are fundamentally different to begin with. As mentioned in my Tuesday blog, these countries each have their own identity they place primary to their membership in the EU.
Take for example Germany and France. The two countries have long been at odds; for many years even after the fall of the Berlin Wall, France's foreign policy's primary concern had been "How to deal with Germany." France only supported membership in the EU with Germany for political reasons: they intended to undermine Germany's economic strength and somewhat equalize it over the entire EU. (Ironically, this plan backfired for France, because the EU has only bolstered Germany's economic power in that it is the strongest of all the countries in the union.) Since Germany has the most economic power still, they carry a lot of weight with their membership and the fate of the EU seems to point in Germany's direction.
Several solutions have been proposed to address the crisis facing the EU. However, our lecturer was quick to point out that there is NO good solution. The four proposed solutions involve:
1. Lower costs in the Periphery countries (Greece, Ireland, Portugal, Spain, and Italy--all of which are poorer, less developed, and with small amounts of capital). This would lower wages and higher unemployment would follow. Such a solution is not politically or socially tenable. This is the solution proposed by Germany because it involves little loss to them.
2. High costs in the Core countries (Germany, France, Austria, The Netherlands, and Finland). However, with its economic power, would Germany accept high inflation?
3. Transfers of capital from the Core countries to the Periphery countries by way of Eurobonds or other forms. This would without a doubt cause a recession among all of the countries given conditions. Without conditions, there is significant moral hazard and a difficulty in valuation without adjustment.
4. Finally, the Euro could break up. Would the Peripherals leave? Would Germany leave? Would the markets attack France? Essentially this would be very costly, and free trade would be endangered.
Sound confusing? That's the point. There is no simple solution and it seems that none of these solutions are optimal. Just as the US and the rest of the world are facing tough decisions regarding the economy and fiscal policy, the EU's is just as tricky if not more so. The EU is hanging in a delicate balance between the strength of a continent and the individuality and solitary strength of each country in the union.
Visit to Bayer CropScience
When you think of Bayer, you probably think of Aspirin. However, the company works in many other industries many are surprised to hear. This wouldn't be so surprising after a look at the company's mission: "Science for a better life." Their focus on life brings together the following:
The company operates in three segments:
Healthcare--Healthcare (Largest segment)
High-Tech Materials--Materials Science (Smallest segment)
We were visiting the company's middle segment, the crop science segment. This segment makes fungicides, herbicides, and pesticides that they sell to dealers and occasionally directly to farmers. Mostly they send their production to order-filling sites.
Unfortunately this company did not seem nearly as advanced in LEAN or Six Sigma as the previous company (Aldes) is. However, the manager assured us that projects to improve operations are in motion and should be in full effect within the next decade. I was honestly shocked to hear that a company as large as Baylor seemed to have neglect to create a more cost-effective and efficient system for all of their business segments.
Now for the fun part! This evening would be our last in Lyon, so we took the chance to really visit with some of new EMLYON acquaintances and see what Lyon's night life had to offer.
We first visited an authentic Lyonnaise restaurant. Now you may think you've tried Boudin if you've ever been to Louisiana, but let me assure you I doubt it's the same. The Boudin we had (after liver pate of course) was sausage cooked in pig's blood. I promise it's WAY more appetizing than it sounds, plus it's gotta be high in iron!! It was served over apples along with entire baguettes. We also had regular sausage with lentils and beef cheek (yes, like cow's face) over boiled potatoes. Luckily, I'm not shy of any kind of food so I tried everything. All of it was delicious. We were all really full so we skipped dessert, but one of our new friend convinced the waitress that it was one of our party's birthday. While this was false, it really created a party with the entire restaurant. There was a table of 6 old Frenchmen sitting at the table next to ours. Every 20 minutes or so throughout dinner they had raised their wine glasses and broken out into various French songs. It created quite the atmosphere, and upon beginning the fake birthday celebrations it became quite a party. The gentlemen came to our table, filled our wine glasses and sang "Happy Birthday" in French at the top of their lungs. By the end of it we were all belly-laughing and passing around a bottle of liquor the waitress handed us to send us off each with a throat-burning shot.
After petting the tabby cat hostess goodbye we stepped back out onto the cobblestones and made our way to the hotel to pick up some more friends on our way to a nightclub. It was so much fun--not much different than an American nightclub. What I found funny was that several of the girls that had climbed on the bar to dance were wearing what they must have thought was true Texas garbs, complete with pseudo-Cowboy boots and hats. I promise we were all totally responsible! It was a great way to go out with a bang in Lyon.