Dainius KreivysBy disfiguring and devaluing family values,
governments around the world are crippling their economies and reducing
precious budget revenues, argues Lithuanian Economy Minister Dainius Kreivys (pictured). His
comments, published in a blog post this week, seem to underline the economic
logic of the United Nations Universal
Declaration of Human Rights
when it states that “the family is the natural
and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society
and the State.”

MercatorNet here reproduces Mr Kreivys’ comments, which echo a previous article about the public
defence of family values in Lithuania
, a nation in North-Eastern Europe
whose rapid economic growth over the past decade has earned it the title of “the
Baltic tiger”.

If traditional family values were
stronger in our society, we would have a much stronger economy, not to mention
a more mature society. That is why today, in an era when each of Lady Gaga’s
new dresses gets major headlines, it is important to speak about the family
from a rational point of view, as a crucial part of economic policy.

In many countries, family businesses are
the most important engine of the economy, and Lithuania is no exception. That
is not just because they constitute a major part of the economy. Nobody can
deny that successful families more often produce responsible citizens who later
also become outstanding professionals. Economically, that means better
qualified specialists, people who create added value in the economy, people who
support themselves, create jobs, maintain a family and pay taxes; people who do
not live off welfare benefits.

Family upbringing also has real
significance for crime rates. The values that are transmitted in families
contribute to reducing crime, meaning the state does not have to spend as much
on public order.

So a policy that supports the success of a
country’s families has a significant impact on GDP, and that is why I suggest
that the family should be the central axis of every country’s economic
development strategies and business promotion programmes.

Consider the family from the perspective of
government revenues and expenditures.

A family represents revenue for the state
treasury. Behind almost every tailor, cafe, guest house, rural tourism getaway
or farm, you will find a family business with family members working shoulder to
shoulder. The size of these undertakings may not amaze anyone, but they are not
called the engine of the economy for nothing. These families provide stable jobs
for themselves, create work for others and pay taxes, thus contributing to
economic growth.

Families usually form in order to have children.
In the eyes of an economist, every person is an “economic unit” which increases
the country’s GDP and brings a variety of tax payments to the state budget.

The family also plays a key role in raising
responsible citizens, shaping their values. Without slighting the efforts that single-parent
families make, one has to say that this is much easier to do in an intact family.
Their investment in the welfare of each child involves the energy, time and
financial resources of two people, not just one. Again, for confirmation just
look at the statistics: children who grow up in one-parent families are more
likely to end up in high-risk groups and more often commit crimes. For the national
budget, that means not only higher costs to fight crime, but also greater social
security spending.

The state cannot by any means forget or
neglect single-parent families, but the top priority has to be encouraging
people to marry, to live family life and to defend their families.

Regarding informal partnerships, the statistics
show no mercy: children of unmarried couples achieve less than those of married
couples. Moreover, the probability that such a child will eventually be left
with just one parent is several times larger than for children born to married
couples. Therefore, two people just living together, in my view, do not constitute
a real family and cannot fulfil the role of a family.

For all these reasons, I am really pleased
by some recent private initiatives in Lithuania that are helping large numbers
of families raise virtuous, responsible and educated citizens for our country.

Many European countries, including Lithuania,
are now struggling with the painful consequences of devaluation of the notion
of family: an increasing retirement age, tragically declining birth rates and
aging populations with ever larger numbers of economically inactive persons
enjoying (well-deserved) retirement. This will get even more painful, as we
reach the point where each employed person will have to maintain not just one
but two or more non-employed persons.

It seems to me that many of us are mistaken
in thinking that the decision to start a family, to stay in a family and to
defend one’s family is something purely emotional. We live in a rational world,
and one in which the family plays a very rational role.

A country that does not adequately value
the family’s impact on its economy, in the long run is doomed to battling
extended economic recession, not to mention the costs of social welfare
programs and crime reduction. To go beyond mere declarations and truly
recognize the value of the family for the national economy, governments need to
promote a more effective social security system and programs to support family
businesses. In the nearest future, as the economic recovery consolidates, we
should take a close look at both of these things, viewing them as parts of the national
investment program.

Dainius Kreivys is the Minister of Economy
of the Republic of Lithuania.
His article was translated by Bryan Bradley, MercatorNet’s contributing editor for Eastern Europe.