A duty of sowing seeds 

by Antonis D. Papagiannidis

A debate organized by the Foundation for Economic and Industrial Research/IOBE, a respected Greek think tank, in commemoration of veteran industrialist Theodoros Papalexopoulos (a co-founder of IOBE, some 45 years ago, and long-serving President of the Federation of Greek Industry/SEV,) brought to the forefront of public attention a number of interesting topics – some of them controversial, some of more general acceptance. 

Raphael Moissis, an old-timer of the energy sector, insisted on the urgency that the current situation implies for any sort of decision-making in post-crisis Greece, while industrialist Spyros Theodoropoulos, a Vice-President of SEV noted that stability should not exclude fast decision-making The two notions should be considered as complementing each other and let economic policy-making and business initiatives adopt a faster pace than usually prevailing in Greece. Theodoropoulos also insisted on the importance of innovation to pull the economy forward. 

AUEB economics professor and Director-General of IOBE Nikos Vettas referred to a Papalexopoulos tenet, that every man and woman has the duty of sowing seeds just as a farmer seeds the land without him or her knowing whether this will ultimately bring a crop; he also spoke of Papalexopoulos as a free spirit, but always sticking to a structured approach to things so as to get out a clear message – not noise. Stathis Kalyvas, of All Souls at Oxford, formerly of Yale U., spoke of the peculiarly Greek tradition of Greeks flourishing abroad – be it in entrepreneurship, in business innovation or in academic achievement – to keep their links with their country of origin and assist to its progress in difficult times. 

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsolakis, who joined in the panel discussion – a format not often found in Greek mores, where politicians tend to stand aloof from this sort of debate – contributed to the part of the discussion dealing with innovation he termed of essence to any reboot of the economy. Mitsotakis also put an emphasis on risk-taking, while he broached the notion of “getting back to normal” for the economy as well as for society in post-pandemic Greece. His main point was that “back to normal” should in no way mean that the Greek economy would revert to past reflexes (and errors). 

In a more critical tone, when the moderator of the debate reminded the panel of Papalexopoulos’ role in establishing some measure of social dialogue in Greece of the Eighties, both Nikos Vettas and Mitsotakis took the position that some (if not many) of the accords entered into by the social partners in pre-debt crisis Greece ended in adding heavy burdens to the country’s own competitive position. A novel sort of social dialogue, one with new characteristics, should be built in a way adapted to present challenges.