For those of you who studied economics in college, you are probably aware of the Big Mac Index. For those of you who didn’t, here’s the spark notes version- essentially it is a way of measuring purchasing-power parity between countries. In other words, the exchange rate market results in goods costing the same across currencies, so that the price of a Big Mac in every country in the world is relative to the strength of its currency. Therefore to get a rough snapshot of comparative world currencies (and thereby strength in the market which is a common indicator of economic development) one simply needs to look at the price of the McDonald’s Big Mac.
But that assumes that you can find a McDonald’s in each country. And unfortunately in Albania, that is not the case. Yup, that’s right. No Big Macs in this fine country.
So I have a new theory I would like to propose to the economic world. And that is my Maple Syrup Theory. It’s based on the aforementioned Big Mac Index…well kind of. It goes like this- one can roughly divide the world into developed and developing countries based on one thing: those with maple syrup and those without.
It may seem farfetched to you, but just hear me out. Take Albania for example- no maple syrup. Peace Corps has a long history in this country because of the high levels of corruption, lack of disability rights, stuck-in-the-past educational system, lack of health care resources, and so many other reasons. Now, Albania’s lovely neighbors to the north, Montenegro, do not have Peace Corps Volunteers serving in their country. And guess what you can find in Montenegro? You guessed it. Maple syrup. Albania’s lovely neighbors to the east (Macedonia and Kosovo) also have a need for Peace Corps volunteers and foreign aid for development. Do they have maple syrup? Nope. But the rest of Europe like Spain, England, France, Italy, etc….all have shelves stocked with maple syrup.
Now I’m not saying that maple syrup in grocery stories causes economic development to take off, I’m just saying its a correlation that my maple syrup deprived self can’t help but notice.
For real though, countries that carry maple syrup in their grocery stores have a certain level of saturation by foreign cultures. If there were no demand for maple syrup, it wouldn’t be supplied. So the pure fact that they have maple syrup on their shelves is a sign that the country has a healthy import/export market and participates heavily in international trade. It is a signal of economic growth in that they are strengthening ties with North America and global markets. It is a sign that they are a forward-looking and progressive country that allows its citizens freedom of movement across borders to bring back new ideas, foods, tastes, customs, etc. It is a marker that they have opened their society to become more a diverse and globalized culture. They are exposed to foreign ideas, ways of life, etc. and therefore have been convinced of the amazing necessity of maple syrup. They have recognized that a life without maple syrup is simply not as sweet.
So there you have it. My simple solution to solving all the development problems of Albania is this- start selling maple syrup. And start with Shkoder. The American volunteers here with thank you.
“It’s not better. It’s not worse. It’s just different.”