Ποιειν Και Πραττειν - create and do

Introductory Remarks by Dr. Vassilis G. Apostolopoulos

 Dr. Vassilis G. Apostolopoulos is President of Hellenic Entrepreneurs Association (EENE) and thus he gave the introduction to the Economic Forum. He mentioned first some crucial points, and then outlined within framework the subsequent presentations should be placed.

Key points:

  • indicators for growth not only for business

  • need stable environment with incentives for investments

  • propose innovative ideas for development

  • inflation another element which does not contribute to bring about investment (internal / abroad)

  • need review of legislation – passing of law which is crystal clear and all respond in a responsible way so that no delay in implementation is incurred

As for the title of conference: rejuvenation of the economy

  • crisis balanced out by the stable environment provided by the EU

  • need to support national and foreign investments, we cannot restrict financial contributions

  • making benefits to be tax free or at least be reduced by 10%

  • insurance contribution be reduced if a company hires more people or raises wages

  • reduction of extra value tax on shares

  • outlets for financing – business have not the necessary funds and this can be achieved when holders bring in their shares so as to increase equity – lbut here lagging behind in efforts needed to be made

Getting out of the crisis - 3 major risks:

  1. delay of reforms

  2. remaining at low development rate

  3. unable to shield Greek economy against major risks stemming from global forces


We delayed modernisation and suffer the consequences.

Brought us close to collapse and has hurt the labour force – a lot of potentials were nearly destroyed

Memorandum of Understanding – to find a way out

  • End of the memorandum will mark the beginning of a new tireless effort to give an impetus to the country.

  • We want to be partners in our country and take over the costs of promoting a better environment in which we all can profit.

  • We are proud of our country.

  • We expect from our public officials to implement legislation efficiently.


Some first comments to the introduction by Dr. Vassilis G. Apostolopoulos, President, Hellenic Entrepreneurs Association (EENE):

Positive is when at the outset a clarity prevails about the conditions under which an exit from the crisis can be envisioned. At the same time, it is important that the contribution of the EU is recognized as having helped Greece to get through this crisis and regain some stable conditions. Likewise, the admittance that mistakes have been made, can contribute towards stimulating a learning process. As to the key points mentioned at the very beginning, they can be commented upon as follows and this in view that they set the tone for what was to follow when various speakers made their contributions to the Economic Forum. For some general themes ran like a red threat through many contributions which followed.

Indicators, whether for growth or for other developments, they reflect a system by which decisions are made but which silence completely the people. Moreover, Richard Gnoddle, in an Interview with the newspaper Kathimerini, reassures that he thinks 'Greece has already found its way' out of the crisis, and that the market will support this since it is not alone the numbers which count, but in which direction one is travelling in. (see: Richard Gnodde: 'Greece has already found its way' (http://www.ekathimerini.com/4dcgi/_w_articles_wsite3_1_07/10/2014_543520 )

Stable environment as a requirement for business to flourish circumscribes very often hard political conditions with even forms of extreme suppression of protest against unjust measures. This has been the case in Greece from 2009 onwards, but the calmness which has been restored since the assemblies on Syntagma Square were stopped in July 2011 meant no more public debate about the reasons for the huge debt and what could be a more just way out of the crisis then the conditions imposed after having signed the Memorandum of Understanding.

To propose innovative ideas for development requires an atmosphere of excitement with a true creative spirit affecting everyone. When looking back to the years before the Olympic Games were held in Athens 2004, some of these elements could be detected. Interesting projects like the Unification of the Archaeological Sites but also finally the completion of the Metro system in Athens altered the self esteem of people with regards to their environment. It led to many more making investments to upgrade their businesses, fore mostly hotels but also restaurants. However, most of the times good ideas are buried in clever schemes by which the substance of them is being undermined. Too much has been done in a most superficial way. The best example for that are the many unused Olympic venues since they were constructed without thought for what was to follow after 2004. Also there has to be made clear what is the difference between development and growth. While the former means also a freedom to let something develop without predetermining the outcome, growth takes place within a clearly defined and measurable framework of references e.g. so many tourists per year come to that specific island whereby this would mean a return to the types of indicators used to measure growth. Given the predominance of profit motive or just a wish to make money as quickly as possible, good ideas for development are rare compared to what is being proposed as projects when seeking, for example, EU funds made available by the structural fund.

Inflation is named as another element which does not contribute to bring about investment (internal / abroad) even though as of late there are signs of bankers and others being more worried by deflation rather than inflation. In this context, reference is made to the Japanese economy which went into a ten year slump. The interesting aspect of this debate usually escapes most economists. While there has been put forth the argument, theoretically speaking, for enlargement of the market, so that the scale of production can increase relative in size to the available market, and therefore would bring down prizes for products if sold on a larger market i.e. the European Union, still savings and especially real estate prizes are interrelated to prizes in a contradictory way. While savings would diminish in value, real estate values would benefit if there is inflation i.e. the prizes of houses go up. Still, it is a difficult management at policy level insofar as between the two extremes, there needs to be kept in mind a different approach as to how the purchasing power of your currency is maintained and even increases as growth takes place. Naturally there is another understanding of inflation if linked to wage increases which reduce the competitiveness of products otherwise sold at a lower prize on the global market. All these arguments cover a huge ground of confusing data and contradictory statements about benefits of a free market economy. The latter is already confined the moment reference is made to a national economy and subject to national policy. Also it connects to what business understands as stable conditions, namely wages do not increase over a longer period of time, so that returns to investments are more or less predictable.

At the same time, there have started as of late a lot of discussions about how Europe and especially the ECB shall face the problem of inflation / deflation with one possible model being called Abenomics after the Japanese example. Another possible tool is Quantitative Easing (QE) as discussed by Daniel Gros: “With inflation in the eurozone stubbornly remaining on a downward trajectory, pressure on the European Central Bank to do “something” to prevent outright deflation is growing. This “something” is usually understood to be massive asset purchases, or quantitative easing (QE). But would QE actually do the trick?” (Daniel Gros The ECB’s Faulty QE Weapon Social Europe 10/10/2014 http://www.social-europe.eu/2014/10/ecbs-faulty-qe-weapon/)

Need review of legislation – in mentioning the point that the passing of law needs to be crystal clear, it seems that something is being overlooked here. The law in the ideal form is usually very clear. As a matter of fact, it is said Greek law is highly ambitious and in many areas very progressive. The problem seems to lie more in the realms of interpretation and implementation with many exemptions being build in till the sense of justice is lacking in the system as a whole. Thus the appeal made that “all respond in a responsible way so that no delay in implementation is incurred” may be a general wish, but there are many more issues in need to be resolved before it can be said the passing of law is made in full responsibility of the elected politicians to the public. There is, for instance, a huge discrepancy between laws passed and their adaptation into administrative laws. To this can be added the extra circumstances and problems incurred after Greece entered not only a crisis, but also a 'blame culture' with 'red tape' or bureaucratization generally at fault for many things, supposedly so, when in reality injustice exemplified by an uneven distribution of wealth and then burdens has deeper reasons than merely what the public administration stands for. For instance, Kathimerini reports that “the European Banking Authority (EBA) has asked Greece to adjust a recent law that allows its banks to boost their capital base by converting deferred tax assets into tax credits.” The law is a good example of how the debt is being dealt with, namely by using all sorts of tricky arrangements which do not hold up to any closer scrutiny, but which the general public will hardly take notice of as there is either lacking sufficient information about what all these laws entail and even when made public as in this article, then it will take still time to respond in a way which would allow avoiding a correction of initial mistakes by making still more mistakes. (See http://in.reuters.com/article/2014/10/09/greece-banks-eba-idINL6N0S40U320141009 ). At London School of Economics, there was posed by a law student in 1969 the question whether or not the philosophy of Popper does offer some guiding principles for the passing of law. That question can be extended since there is, generally speaking, a lack of a sound philosophical framework which could guide the passing of law. Likewise it touches upon other policy related matters and what does end up as a law i.e. policy matter enacted upon. Here two levels seem to be very distinct: how to attain consistency within the constitutional framework of democracy for laws to be just, and what is consistency in terms of implementation processes which have to stand up themselves to legal challenges especially if citizens consider these laws to be unduly unfair and harmful to society at large. Right now, citizens have only such rare instruments as referendum at their disposal or to vote the governing party / parties out of office at the next general election. That means the system is relatively inflexible to the need to make necessary adjustments in its passing of laws if really at fault or a clear cover up of privileged positions and which works in favour of merely covering up problems rather than resolving them in such a way, that it is compatible with solutions which do work themselves through the institutional framework in a consistent way.

Hatto Fischer

Athens 10.10.2014

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