Dr. Margarita Starkeviciute is a well-known European economist, working mainly in the area of financial economics. From 2004-2009 she was a member of the European Parliament (MEP). Today she works as an expert of the European Commission on foreign trade issues and also writes books and articles.
Starkeviciute is a practicing Catholic, who has also been an advisor to Lithuanian cardinal Audrys Bačkis.
She kindly agreed to answer a few questions for Novena related to the encyclical Fratelli tutti of Pope Francis.
Pope Francis has issued the new encyclical Fratelli tutti, where he criticises the neoliberal model of economics, oriented too much to market powers. He calls for inclusiveness, kindness and social friendship. What would be your opinion on the post-COVID economic model?
There is no one model suitable to all countries as cultural factors, economic structure and levels of development differ. However, it is thought that the best results are achieved by countries which has high rates of total factor productivity (TFP).
According to research data, such growth of TFP is driven also by social factors. So I would agree that it is necessary to pay more attention to social factors.
We might well remember the importance of social capital, whose role has been forgotten, although proven. It boosts human-to-human connections, trust, support and the social safety net.
The economies with well-developed social capital do better because of higher trust levels in society, less corruption and crime, the free flow of ideas and information, less poverty and better health.
The sociologist Robert Putnam has proven this in his research on why northern Italy does better than southern Italy.
You were an economic advisor to Cardinal Bačkis. What are your memories of working with the Catholic Church in Lithuania?
I was a member of a group that advised the former Archbishop of Vilnius, Cardinal Bačkis. We were giving advice mainly related to management of property that belonged to the Church.
It was a very interesting time as a lot of property was returned to the Church after Lithuania regained independence and well-balanced decisions were needed to ensure that buildings – the majority of them heritage sites – would be preserved and renovated.
Do you think the Catholic Church should be more involved in setting-up the world order following after the Christian model of society?
The digital economy, social networks, hybrid wars, diseases make people vulnerable to the abuse of power, encroachments into citizens’ privacy… We are living in an age of rage, so Christianity’s role is becoming more important because it heals souls.