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Nokia Comes to Town

I’ve just returned from Romania where news broke that next year Nokia is bringing a mobile phone manufacturing plant and 4,000 jobs to the Transylvanian city of Cluj-Napoca, 300 miles north west of the capital, Bucharest. Nokia has promised to build an entire village of suppliers next to the plant, and the town’s airport will be expanded to accommodate jumbo jets (though maybe not an Airbus 380).

It’s an important boost to Romania – one of Europe’s poorest countries. But Nokia executives may not be aware that Cluj-Napoca has experienced a gold rush before. Fifteen years ago huge amounts of cash flowed into the city as investors across Romania poured money into a local pyramid scheme known as Caritas (Romanian for charity).

For two years Cluj-Napoca was transformed into one of the richest cities in eastern Europe – until the scheme collapsed with debts of $1 billion.

It’s boomtime again – but this time the good people of Cluj-Napoca must hope the money that follows Nokia into the city is more than fool’s gold.

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