Interview with Professor Sir Christopher Pissarides
Business File, September-October 2018, No. 117
Interview by Eugenia Anastassiou
Professor Pissaridis is adamant that economic influx has to come from investment and debt restructuring; otherwise Greece cannot break out of the vicious circle of lowering income and pensions, and increasing taxation. In order for Greece to progress economically it must create the right business environment, otherwise the country will have no option but to rely on continued external help.
Nicosia-born Professor Sir Christopher Pissarides has had an exceptional career as an economist: he was educated at the University of Essex and the London School of Economics (LSE), where he is now Regius Professor of Economics—this prestigious academic award is directly bestowed by a British monarch, and Professor Pissarides was the first recipient in the field of economics in 2013, the same year he was knighted by the Queen.
In 2005, he became the first European economist to win the IZA Prize in Labor Economics (with his collaborator Dale Mortensen) which is considered one of the most distinguished awards in economics worldwide, and in 2010 he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Economics, jointly with Dale Mortensen of Northwestern University and Peter Diamond of MIT.
Professor Pissarides specialises in the economics of labour markets, macroeconomic policy, economic growth and structural change, as well as leading research on ‘The Future of Employment in Europe’ programme. His book ‘Equilibrium Unemployment Theory’ is a standard reference in the economics of unemployment.
In addition, he is a Fellow of the British Academy, the Academy of Athens, the Academia Europaea, as well as a Non-National Senior Associate of the Forum for Economic Research in the Arab Countries, Iran and Turkey and a former member of the Monetary Policy Committee of the Central Bank of Cyprus. He has served on the European Employment Task Force, and in 2011 he served as the President of the European Economic Association, as well as being a Lifetime Honorary Member of the American Economic Association. Professor Pissarides has been a consultant on employment policy and other labour issues for the World Bank, the European Commission, the Bank of England, and the OECD.
Since you have been following the Greek economic crisis from Day One, which do you think would be the “new growth model” for the country in the years to come?
In this matter one has to consider the location of Greece and what advantages that holds for the country—primarily its natural resources—and what markets it can readily access; namely the EU. Greece should focus on a few sectors and try to do them really well, to provide products or services to a high standard. Greece does not have the capacity for large scale production, such as do Germany, France, or Italy, but it should be able to produce top-quality goods, which should be marketed abroad aggressively.
A case in point are the country’s more successful SMEs which now have a presence internationally, companies such as Fage, Korres, Frezyderm, Aegean Airlines, and others. Greece must be able to organise a better way to market its agricultural wares and native foodstuff, such as feta and its fresh fruit and vegetables; if the Italian province of Sicily can do it, why not a country like Greece?
Again, Greece has the ideal location and climate, so tourism is its other great asset, but again it has to focus on off ering a premium service to be able to compete and be more attractive than its southern European neighbours. Shipping of course is another Greek strength. However, in all these cases and for businesses to develop in Greece, the government must be kept out and red-tape has to be minimised for entrepreneurship to flourish.
Also, Greek links with China and their investment in the country, especially in much-needed infrastructure must be utilised to Greece’s best advantage.