* Άρθρο, το οποίο δημοσιεύθηκε στο ένθετο The Bridge της International Herald Tribune
The time seems about right
Southeast Europe and Arab world’s “Greek dream”
According to a market survey that was conducted recently on a 7,700 household sample in Southeast Europe and the Arab world, Greece has significant potential to penetrate the markets of these countries.
The sample of this survey included citizens in the capitals of Egypt, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Albania, FYROM, Bulgaria, Romania, Serbia and Montenegro, Turkey, Cyprus and Greece and gave researchers the privilege to examine key economic and social trends and highlight the opportunities for Greece and Greek enterprises.
As far as the countries of Southeast Europe is concerned, the most important result from the survey is that 60.2% of the respondents trust services and products from Greece, while Cyprus is the 2nd best country in this respect with only 38.7% of the respondents trusting its services and products.
The survey also showed that Greece is really appreciated in the Arab World, since 61.1% of the respondents are positive in the perspective of closer financial and commercial links between their countries and Greece.
Furthermore, the positive view that Greece enjoys in these countries is 74.5%. The fact that the respondents have a more positive view of Greece than they do of Great Britain, the U.S. and Russia, is very important. It gives Greece a major competitive advantage and despite the difficulties of many western countries to penetrate the region, Greece can promote its role as a financial hub for the enterprises of the Arab countries to reach the European markets and vice versa.
Therefore, it is very important for the Greek enterprises and the Greek government to take advantage of this positive image of our country and promote the enhancement and strengthening of commercial and financial ties with the aforementioned countries.
And this effort has already begun. The New Government has already started exploiting these positive, for Greece, circumstances and has been expanding its activities and warming up its diplomatic and economic contacts with the Arab world countries. Over the last months three very important missions to these countries of high level-influence Greek delegations have taken place and proved that the message has been received at the highest level possible. Two of these missions were headed by H.E. Mr Karolos Papoulias, President of the Hellenic Republic, something that reveals the importance that the Greek political world gives to these markets, which during the last years enjoy an era of petrol fuelled high growth.
Moving up a gear
Greece seems to follow the trends of the era and that, after several years, it is on the train of growth and prosperity. It is also obvious that Greece is not only a passenger but is also trying to lead the way of this train -at least in the broader region of Southeast Europe and Middle East.
Great business deals are occurring after many years and European enterprises, international hedge funds and enterprises of the Mediterranean countries, the Arab world and Russia are showing great interest for the liberalisation of Greek markets. The deregulation of the natural gas and electricity markets in Greece, after many years of procrastination, is now a reality and new chances and challenges emerge for domestic and foreign companies in a sector that will attract investments of more than 4 bn € over the years until 2010.
The new economic environment is a result of the New Governance’s growth model that is founded on three main pillars, namely, competitiveness – openness – development of healthy private entrepreneurial initiative. The new growth model is already sowing its seeds:
-Institute for Management Development (IMD), in its annual World Competitiveness Yearbook, has upgraded Greece's ranking in 2006 by eight positions, to 42 from 50 in 2005. Greece achieved the third best improvement over the previous year, following only China and India, which moved up 12 and 10 positions respectively. These results led Minister of Development Dimitris Sioufas to say that the policies of the New Government were responsible for the significant improvement, since the data taken into account mainly concern the period from 2004 (when the new government was elected) to 2006.
-GDP growth runs at 4,1%, more than double the EU average and the budget deficit was reduced last year by 2,4% from 6,9% to 4,5%.
-Furthermore Greek exports in 2005 rose by 13,1% and by 22,8% in the first there months of 2006.
-Greek Tourism sector revenues rose by 7% during 2005, with a provision of a 10% increase during this year.
Reforms with a cause…and support
Greece is a modern European state with high qualified and well-educated people ready to exploit the challenges of the new era.
The hardest step is always the first step, and this step has been completed.
The main challenge for Greece is to promote entrepreneurship and competitiveness. The business and the financial environment are changing. Greek entrepreneurs have the chance to expand their business, but only if they move their main interest away from the Greek market.
According to Professor Stephane Garelli, Director of IMD’s World Competitiveness Centre: “More than ever, competitiveness thrives on the ability to manage a totality of competencies and to capitalize on the vast amount and diversity of skills available in a nation or a firm. Attitude also matters. In this respect, competitiveness can also greatly depend on the willingness to be precisely, competitive.”
During the last two years Greece is moving forward and implementing crucial reforms; reforms based on four key priorities, namely getting people into work, increasing competition, unlocking business potential and supporting an innovative environment, that could trigger growth and more and better jobs.
More growth and more jobs mean better quality of living for all Greek, which in turn means strengthening of the social and regional cohesion. The important fact is that these reforms are adopted by most of the Greek people who vastly support them, according to the latest surveys.
Under these circumstances, the next big bet for the Greek government is to make the most out of the next Community Support Framework or the National Strategic Reference Framework for the Programming period 2007-2013. The design and implementation of this framework will either ensure or jeopardize the convergence of the Greek economy with the rest most developed European economies. The main concerns should be promoting competitiveness, investing in human capital and enhancing entrepreneurial innovation.