Too much pro­cras­ti­na­tion

Kathimerini English - - Front Page - BY ALEXIS PAPACHELAS

I was re­cently read­ing

about a for­eign diplo­mat who got to know the late Greek prime min­is­ter An­dreas Pa­pan­dreou very well when he came to Greece for the first time in 1961. The two men were dis­cussing Greece’s eco­nomic out­look and the sec­tors of the econ­omy that of­fered the best prospects at the time. They fo­cused on the need to ex­tend Greece’s tourism sea­son and at­tract for­eign pen­sion­ers to set­tle in the coun­try. They also talked about lo­cal olive oil and, more specif­i­cally, about the fact that Greece had been ex­port­ing in bulk tons of the prod­uct to Ital­ian com­pa­nies which stan­dard­ized and repack­aged it be­fore sell­ing it in for­eign mar­kets at much higher prices. Fifty-six years later, we are still talk­ing about the same things. I’ve heard at least three can­di­date prime min­is­ters dis­cuss the Greek olive oil para­dox. And I have met with se­ri­ous in­vestors with plans to lure Euro­pean pen­sion­ers to spend their re­tire­ment years in the Greek coun­try­side – but their am­bi­tions are al­ways thwarted by ex­ces­sive red tape. Greece’s foot-drag­ging can­not be jus­ti­fied any­more. We went bank­rupt, we were hit by an un­prece­dented cri­sis and – at least in the­ory – we man­aged to cure many of the weaknesses of the Greek state ap­pa­ra­tus. There is plenty of un­tapped tal­ent and skill out there. Creative Greeks have noth­ing to envy of their Ital­ian coun­ter­parts in terms of mar­ket­ing or lay­out. The new gen­er­a­tion of pro­duc­ers and hote­liers com­bine gusto with pro­fes­sion­al­ism – a truly rare blend. So what’s miss­ing? A ba­sic dis­ad­van­tage is our ap­par­ent al­lergy to team­work. You meet three pro­duc­ers or wine­mak­ers work­ing in the same area and chances are there is some sort of dis­pute be­tween them, or they are sim­ply re­luc­tant to en­ter a busi­ness al­liance. The prob­lem is that most Greek busi­nesses are too small to sur­vive on their own out there – and this is a hand­i­cap that can only be over­come through syn­er­gies. And, of course, pro­fes­sion­al­ism is of­ten put on the back burner for the sake of quick and easy profit. A large part of the pri­vate sec­tor would pre­fer to sell bulk olive oil or wine, op­er­at­ing in a non-trans­par­ent gray area. But 56 years is too long to keep go­ing over the same old is­sues. Greeks are not naive – in fact, they are very far from it. But they have wasted too much time dis­cussing pol­i­tics and ar­gu­ing about non­sense. Our ob­jec­tive, at the end of the day, should not be to get a slice of an al­ready small cake, but to make that cake big­ger.

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