It will take the people to realize government is not the answer to bring a country back to productivity. We are also in debt with cities and towns declaring bankruptcy daily. It has been government who has contributed to the decline by making it more difficult to start and stay in business along with the promise to tax more while not spending any less.
By Alexis Papachelas
A key question that remains unanswered is what Greece could produce in the coming years to enable the debt-wracked economy to return to growth.
Put differently, what are Greece’s comparative advantages over other countries, and what sectors can play a role in an economic resurgence? Hundreds of studies have been carried out on the subject, but most have been filed away in politicians’ offices with the excuse that “these things are not doable here.”
We must decide what our strategic sectors are and then come up with practical ways to support them. To be sure, that will not come about through subsidies and similar tricks that have in the past transformed entrepreneurs into state-fed parasites. Rather, what we need is incentives such as tax breaks and, in the words of a small food producer from Kalamata, “we need the state not to get in our way, to let us do our job without creating problems.”
The banks also have a crucial role to play. Greek institutions have so far avoided risk or rather avoided the risk of doing business with anyone expect their cronies. So they would often throw money at the companies of their friends, even if it were clear that they lacked any serious business plan.
Greece has been rather allergic to start-ups. It’s a pity because there are many educated young people with brilliant ideas here. The required funding is often small while the potential returns are huge. An entrepreneurial ethos and risk-taking have for years been replaced by the coziness of steady subsidies.
If we want growth and investment, we must first of all change the way we think. Unfortunately, most of the public, the media and the political class like to see the economy as a zero-sum game in which the gains of one are made at the expense of another. It’s incredible how we are willing to tolerate corruption among middle-class businessman yet at the same time be hostile to bigger entrepreneurs. Environmental or other concerns are often a smoke screen for jealousy, grumpiness and good-old idleness.
Although entrepreneurship has received a bad name in Greece, there are many examples of businesspeople and bankers who have worked hard, taken big risks and succeeded in this very difficult country. It’s time we turned these people into role models for what comes next. We need their input in tourism, agricultural production, high technology and any sector where Greece could compete on a global scale.
Greece has many people with talent and ambition. If we and, most importantly, the state allowed them to fulfill their potential, Greece could look very different in a few years. It’s up to us.