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Enterprise Greece: An initiative to facilitate new investments

Publiziert am 10.März.2014 von Abraam Kosmidis

The primary concern for the Greek government is to put country’s economy back on track. The Officials are more than interested in finding ways not only to maintain the existing investments, but also to appeal and to support new ones. The government is making every effort to encourage its international trade collaborations and to boost even further the investment environment in Greece. Greece must surpass all the bureaucratic practices of the past which did not let the investments to rise. The present hard times demand a new flexible working environment.

In order to achieve the above goal, the government has launched some measures: it proposed the new investment law which allows businesses to start up within a day (see the article of 28 February 2014: Starting up a business in Greece within a day’). The last few months, it focuses on reviewing the existing exports procedures and processes followed by the exporting companies of the country. The exports policy reform is considered to be another major step towards the creation of a stable investment environment in Greece.

First of all, it was necessary for a National Exports Strategy to be established. In the recent past, there had been taken some few reluctant actions for creating the “National Strategy for Trading Facilitation (NSTF)” in Greece. The efforts to create a thorough exports strategy have become more intense the last two years (the crisis made clear that an extroverted exports approach is the pillar of the Greek economy – along with tourism). The Greek NSTF is based upon the examples of other countries such as England, Austria and Holland which have applied successfully similar kind of strategies.

The NSTF aims to simplify all the pre-customs and customs procedures related to the exports trading, thus reducing the time and administrative costs for the exporting companies. Export Trading becomes more favorable for investors either they come from Greece or even from abroad. More particularly, foreign investors will be interested in investing in Greece, because from now on the country’s legislative framework allows them to easily export anything produced by their investment. The initiative to form a National Exports Strategy must have taken place long time ago as Greece has a great advantage due to its geographical location and it may become the hub for the region’s international trade. The officials expect to achieve the following objectives, after the NSTF is implemented

  • Reduction of the number of days needed to export by 50% by 2015
  • Reduction of the export cost by 20% by 2015

The key presupposition to implement the National Exports Strategy is the formation of a governmental supervisory body (political level), called the “Co-ordination Committee of the National Strategy for Trading Facilitation (CCNSTF). This committee is formed with the participation of the following ministries: Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Development and Competiveness, and Ministry of Rural Development. The European Commission and the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) will be invited to hold an advisory role. The purpose of this committee is to make sure that the principles of the NSTF are followed, and to provide the necessary support and guidance to a body called the Operational Steering Committee for Trade Facilitation -OSC (operational level).

The OSC will operate under the supervision of CCNSTF and it will be set up with the participation of the above mentioned ministries as well as participants coming from the following business unions: Hellenic Federation of Enterprises, Panhellenic Exporters Association, Greek International Business Association, Exporters Association of Crete, Hellenic Company of Logistics and Greek Federation of Customs Brokers Associations.

The Committee will have to monitor and underline the progress done during the implementation of the National Strategy for Trade Facilitation. It must also coordinate and supervise all the involved parties (ministries, business unions, exporters). It can come up with suggestions to improve the efficiency of the NSTF.

In addition to the Operational Steering Committee, the Greek government decided to set up a new entity called “Enterprise Greece”. This new company will function supplementary with the OSC, in order to enhance the effort for extroverted entrepreneurship in Greece.

The responsibilities of the “Enterprise Greece” are to:

  • Support  the Greek investments in markets from abroad
  • Provide information and advice to the interested investors from abroad on the legislative framework that rules the investments in Greece.
  • Look into the markets of other countries in order to inform the business unions and investors.
  • Provide support and advice to investors who wish to export to other countries.
  • Organize promotion campaigns for goods and products produced in Greece.
  • Cooperate with international trade institutions to form a common trade policy.
  • Make suggestions regarding the improvement of the legislative framework for the exports or the investments in Greece.
  •  Cooperate with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to organize the business visits of the President of the Hellenic Republic, the Prime Minister and the ministers to other countries.

The law bill was voted by the Greek parliament on 26 February 2014. The new entity is expected to start functioning on 1 April 2014, but its full operation will begin on 1 October 2014.

There is a strong political will to reverse the prevailing conditions that ruled the investments so far. Greece needs radical structural reforms, if it wishes to return on the road of development. There are mainly two points that the government may focus on in order to bring the country in developmental orbit: appeal new investments and improve performances of exports.

The new investment law is the first of a series of actions towards this direction. The creation of the entity “Enterprise Greece” is the second one – together with the implementation of National Strategy for Trade Facilitation. The government hopes that the NSTF and the “Enterprise Greece” will be a major tool for the boost of the economy, as they both set a stable and friendly environment for the investors – exporters. They both promote the extroverted “climate” that is cultivated in Greece.

 

 

 

 



Growing Opposition to Continued Greek Austerity Measures

Publiziert am 15.Februar.2014 von Abraam Kosmidis

Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras began his six month tenure of the EU Presidency in January with a speech criticising the continued imposition of austerity measures. This has meant four years of harsh spending cuts and a tight fiscal policy, which he said the country could no longer tolerate. His is now a leading voice in the growing opposition against renewed austerity measures, which have been imposed on states in economic crisis across the EU. Greece has felt the sharp end of the EU currency and debt crisis and has already received €250 billion in bailout funds. For many leading politicians and the majority of the public alike, enough is enough.

For the Presidential handover ceremony in Athens, trouble was expected. Over 5000 police were drafted in to ensure peace was maintained and there would be no disruption. This did not stop many Greeks coming onto the streets of the city to let visiting EU officials know what they thought. Neither left nor right wing party leaders attended, but the point was made. Outside the ceremony, demonstrators and police clashed and crowds were forced back with tear gas; inside, the new EU President presented an equally clear message that Greece was exhausted by austerity and that although the government’s economic reforms were having an effect, there should now be a new agenda to stimulate growth and create jobs.

Greek Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras said: ‘Greece does not want to have any more fiscal conditionality. It is out of the question because it is already too tough.’ He spoke for many. Years of depression, mass unemployment and wage cuts that have left even those lucky enough to have a job to struggle on around a third of their former incomes, have left the country exhausted. With the news coming at the beginning of February of an unexpectedly large primary surplus, the Finance Minister has criticised the Troika’s earlier pessimistic forecasts, which had expected a €3 billion shortfall in the 2014 budget. He said that if he had agreed to the lenders’ demands for greater austerity measures, the Greek economy would now be facing ruination. Greece has worked hard to eradicate the structural problems in the economy and the huge current account deficit that had been the two major causes of the crisis, but admitted that ‘the other side of fiscal consolidation is a decline in living standards’ and that it would take some time ‘from the moment that figures improve until the moment that people will see some money in their pockets.’

Priorities and difficulties

On 15 January, Prime Minister Samaras outlined Greece’s priorities for the next six months. Measures to promote economic growth and improved social cohesion will be set in motion, and solutions to the serious problem of youth unemployment must be a part of these. The first signs of economic recovery may be visible, but one of the aims of any set of recovery measures must be the prevention of a repetition of the crisis. The Prime Minister said that the crisis and the response to it had proved that the EU can be effective, and he recognised the solidarity shown by the people of Europe. Looking towards the May 2014 European and municipal elections, he said he wanted ‘to make sure that citizens won’t vote with the bitter taste of crisis in their mouths.’ This is a serious concern, as recent polls have shown Prime Minister Samaras’ New Democracy government falling behind the opposition Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA), and that it may even be in danger of fighting for second place behind the neo-fascist Golden Dawn party.

The New Democracy government’s shrinking majority in parliament has made passing some of the tough economic measures demanded by the Troika’s bailout conditions increasingly difficult, which Finance Minister Stournaras has criticised as being unrealistic: ‘The majority is very slim, so we have to  be very careful. There are things that can be done and things that cannot be done.’ Official discussions of a third bailout package can start only after the May elections; but if unofficial discussions are able to show any positive signs before then, Samaras may be able to gain some ground on the SYRIZA coalition, which rejects completely the terms of the previous bailout agreements. SYRIZA’s leader, Alexis Tsipras has said he would renege on the agreement, withholding at least 60% of the debt, which would create a further crisis that could drive Greece out of the eurozone and leave it bankrupt. However, New Democracy itself has said that it cannot repay the €250 million owed to the banks, while setting aside a bill that would provide debt relief for households that have fallen into difficulties only because of the government’s austerity measures – the cuts to wages and pensions, and tax increases. This apparent insensitivity cancels out any goodwill created by any new people-friendly agenda or optimism about recovery, and does them no good in the polls.

The focus of resentment

For many of those protesters in Athens, the EU is the main architect of the social and humanitarian crisis in Greece, and German chancellor Angela Merkel as its dominant figure. Economic recovery in itself does not prompt people who have suffered years of hardship to forget their resentment against those who have managed the crisis, however successful they might be. This is a familiar scenario whether a given leader is popular or despised: the electorate will complain during the hard times, but then get rid of them after they’ve delivered success. As the US financier George Soros has said of the current situation in Europe: ‘The acute phase of the financial crisis is now over. Future crises will be political in origin.’ He sees the crisis as having crucially altered the relationship between the countries of the eurozone, from a ‘voluntary association of equal states’ to ‘a relationship between creditor and debtor countries that is neither voluntary nor equal.’ This is borne out by Chancellor Merkel’s popularity at home, where she has won a third term in office, and the increasing resentment felt towards Germany, and Merkel in particular, within the countries that have suffered the hardships of the EU bailout agreements. In an EU summit held last December, during the first week of Merkel’s new term, she found herself trying to push through a new policy for enforcing structural reform on eurozone economies against united opposition of all elected European leaders, including even her usual allies, and the plan was defeated.

Unpopularity is the price of power. Personalizing the crisis in this way may give a satisfying focus to people’s anger, and elected leaders may feel compelled to reflect this, but it is not necessarily wise politics if your focus is a better future for Europe. Merkel’s plan was seen as dictatorial, a view that was probably influenced by the power of her position. Structural reform is painful, as seen during the undoubtedly difficult years of the Greek bailout, but it has led to signs of recovery. If Merkel had been successful, the European Commission would have been empowered to police structural reforms, but it would also have partially subsidized them. Merkel’s view was that €3 billion spent on immediate changes was preferable to €10 billion spent after unnecessary delay. These changes may or may not have helped the Greek economic recovery, but it’s certain that without the support of the previous EU bailout agreements the country would be in a much worse economic position. Part of the fallout of the eurozone crisis has been the loosening of commitment to the EU and its principles by many people in the countries worse hit by the crisis – including their politicians.