by Alexandra C. Vovolini*
These have been times of celebration and commemoration, in ways more than one. The year that just left the stage of public life in Greece was dedicated to the Bicentennial of the Greek Revolution of 1821; the Covid-19 pandemic did not succeed in obscuring cultural and memory events, although mass participation was difficult. Important new books shed light to the course of Greek history like the ones by Roderick Beaton or Mark Mazower, both addressed to a broader reading base; but the crop of Greek-language editions was also impressive, providing challenging food for thought.
A different cause for celebration was offered by the 20th anniversary of the euro area: Greece, its economy and society was deeply influenced by life under the euro, as was made clear by the challenges it faced so as to avoid Grexit some years ago. Speaking of the economy and its challenges, growth prospects are now strong, and positive signs abound for the new year – notwithstanding the remaining pressures due to the pandemic. Real estate is once more taking the lead, while investments in the hotel and hospitality sector are booming, allowing for positive forecasts for the current year.
Still, whenever one speaks in Greece of real estate or land development, as well as of investments in tourism and leisure, one should always keep in mind the need for safeguarding the unique environment Greece has been endowed with; were massive investment in such sector to turn the country into an internationally bland and indifferent place, we would all lose rather than gain.
Whatever positive portents, the overhang of public debt, the tenuous equilibrium of the pension system and the dwindling demographics of Greece ahead put important demands on managing the future. The promise of an investment-led surge, fueled by Next Generation EU funds, has to be converted into tangible results, sooner than later.
The promise of the repatriation of human talent –the brain regain of which much has been told– needs innovative projects and an overall positive climate; the example of the “Zurich circle” in engineering of the early 20the century, or of the Montpellier equivalent in agronomy has now to be reinvented – with Greek scientists from US or EU universities and research centers taking the lead.
The increased influence of the Greek diaspora should be welcomed and encouraged, while building centers of excellence and the coordination of Greek Universities and research centers with the likes of SEV/the Hellenic Federation of Enterprises or the National Centre of Scientific Research “Demokritos” are auguring well for the future.
This time around, growth based on industry and manufacturing should not be attempted in traditional sectors: life sciences, pharmaceuticals, and manufacturing based on new technologies (digital, robotics, nanotechnology) should be explored in earnest. Meanwhile, the world all around us undergoes great changes, impacting us on several fronts. The change of government in Germany will now be succeeded by presidential elections in France: Europe is rebalancing itself, with the great challenge of climate change being felt along with climbing energy prices – and with geopolitical shifts nearby (e.g. in the Ukraine) or far away (in the Indian-Pacific region) also demanding close attention.
*Alexandra C. Vovolini is the publisher of Greek Business File. This article is published in the January / February issue available here.