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Thursday, January 21, 2021

Greece hopes to emerge as the post pandemic new “Land of Dreams”

Joanne Trikoulis
Joanne Trikoulis
Joanne Trikoulis is a contributing editor and is based in Athens, Greece. She is the CEO & Founder of Axion-Ellas. The opinions expressed by our authors do not necessarily reflect the opinions of HNA and its representatives.

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Historically, America has been dubbed “the land of opportunity” because millions of immigrants left their own homes to find something in this country not readily available in their own, an opportunity to succeed. At the beginning of the 20th century at a time of rapid industrialization and urbanization, America received more than 20 million immigrants. However, in either post-war or post-economic crisis, other countries have emerged into the spotlight as the “new lands of opportunity”. Post-WWII, the UK saw huge investment in public infrastructure due to the fact that many immigrants flocked back to help rebuild bombed cities and transportation systems in Europe. Australia has been dubbed “the land of opportunity for entrepreneurs” and frequently lists at the top of the world as a migration destination because of its high level of education, quality of life and gross national income per capita, its natural resources, and geographic location between Asia and America. As we moved into the new millennium, Asia, which experienced a wave of digital innovation and technology, became the new “land of opportunity” for growth and posterity. Asian countries like  Hong Kong, then Singapore, and most recently tax-haven Dubai, saw surges of migration.

Recently in a teleconference with Greeks living and working abroad, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis stated “the image of Greece is changing. Maybe it is changing – I dare say – even faster than we imagined it could happen.” Just as with the economies stated above, a model for a post-pandemic restart and an allure on investment migration is slowly unfolding.  Such a model it seems will be based on Nobel Prize-winning economist Christopher Pissarides’ 14-point interim growth plan, which foresees across-the-board reforms to all the sectors so as to ensure the development of the economy in a way that will lead to an increase in per capita income, strengthen social cohesion and improve the country’s environmental performance, through interventions in the tax and insurance systems.  In addition, it recommends reforms in education, health, justice, and public administration.  The plan also focuses on incentives for funding options for innovation in tourism, agriculture, manufacturing, infrastructure, and transportation.  With a ten-year plan for economic recovery, the Pissarides committee’s recommendations set out to double annual growth from 1.7% to 3.5% by 2030, and raise per capita GDP to 81% of the EU average from 67% today.  The report predicts that unemployment would fall to 7% from the current 17%.  In order to ensure investment attraction and protection, Greece must be competitive on the tax front, the quality of its human capital, and the operations of the state through transparency and the independence of institutions.

Not only has Greece weathered fairly well during the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic by implementing quick and strict actions during the second resurgence, it has significantly stepped up the pace of reform implementation to ensure a sustainable economic recovery. Greece has been thinking ahead to post-pandemic human-capital and migration attraction.  Following the coronavirus pandemic, Prime Minister Mitsotakis said, the government will expand its efforts on “attracting to our homeland human capital, which we really need.” Therefore, it comes with no surprise that, tax provisions and other incentives, are at the forefront of this plan, proposing a 50-percent reduction in income tax for the first 7 years for those Greeks abroad and citizens of other countries who choose to work based in Greece in the coming years. This should help reverse the “brain drain” that Greece has experienced over the past few years.

The coronavirus pandemic has provided “a great opportunity,” in assessing Greece’s strengths and weaknesses and moving forward with accelerated speed to the digitization communication between citizens, businesses, and state in the best and most effective way to fight the hoarseness of the Greek state bureaucracy.” In order to attract more multinationals, Greece is working to rebrand the country as,An extroverted, competitive economy at the cutting edge of developments, at the cutting edge of technology, at the cutting edge of climate change, but at the same time accompanied by an effective state and a quality of life that maintains these special characteristics that make Greece so different, so beautiful in the eyes not only of ours, of the Greeks, but also of those who may want to come, to live and work in Greece.” Whether these companies are interested in moving regional headquarters to Greece or are R&D based companies, back-office bases, or sales bases to cover an entire area, because of Greece’s geographical connectivity, such a return of a class of workers who are familiar with the environment of multinationals will be made easier. Thus “under no circumstances should we create a conflict between those who come from abroad and those who stayed in Greece. That’s not the point. The goal is to marry skills. And through this fertile osmosis to create conditions so that we are all finally one and benefited,” noted the Prime Minister.

Referring to a post-pandemic world Kyriakos Mitsotakis said, “At a time when you can work from any place, why not work from Greece, as long as certain basic requirements are met? Quality of life considerations will play an increasingly greater role.” Quoting the film Field of Dreams, “if you build it they will come,” the Prime Minister said, “Yes, if Greece changes and Greece is changing, the Greeks who are currently thinking about it will come back two and three times.” The Prime Minister’s words may soon ring true, especially since, during the first phase of the pandemic Greeks rushed to Greek Consulate offices to renew Greek passports, while others feverishly sought information to file for dual citizenship. Therefore, it appears that Greece may be on the right track to becoming a “model” country.  As long as they work to keep the incentives coming, the people will come.

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