Greece’s cultural economy in need of bold action


Growth is a value-driven word. Powering growth in Greece via the cultural economy requires taming discrepancies on several fronts. After all, the mapping of the Greek cultural economy reveals persisting mismatches that speak for themselves. Τhe list below is only indicative.

First: Cultural workers account for 3.2% of our active workforce but are merely generating 1.4% or our GDP. We can only improve that ratio by making both cultural workers and their “employers” more competitive in the international market. Training is of paramount importance, no doubt. But other “validation” mechanisms might help as well. Consider, for example, the arts. Imagine, for instance, increasing revenues and enhancing the exportability of cultural workers by linking to successful paradigms such as Artworks, a highly ambitious, but less known program, sponsored by the Stavros Niarchos Foundation. Artworks provided over the last four years small grants to 230 visual artists, curators, filmmakers, dancers/choreographers (80 artists per year, meticulously selected) helping “validate” the originality of their work and, thus, boost their recognition across various channels.

Second: Greece is running an important cultural current account deficit. By a modest assessment, Greece imports annually 181 million euros of cultural products and only exports €110 million. However, Greek museums, which are currently showing only 7% of their collections (with the rest of the artifacts in storage) cannot loan out to international institutions against a fee! Yes, they cannot exploit their collections to bring in money to develop themselves and offer working opportunities to newly qualified staff in say, IT or marketing.

Third: Our Corporate Social Responsibility rules (as far as tax deductible corporate expenditure is concerned) are dissociated from the cultural sector (recent circular E2017 of the Independent Authority of Public Revenue interpreting art. 22 of our Internal Revenue Code is illustrative; same with Article 47 Paragraph 8 of the IRC where only funds donated directly to the Greek state and/or the municipalities are tax deductible). Thus, a cement company or a bank cannot “adopt,” for instance, the positions of the IT director or the marketing & communications director of the National Archaeological Museum, pay for their salaries and help such an institution develop its audience more generally.

Fourth: Many countries (including Greece) are now providing important incentives to angel investors to boost their start-up ecosystems or enhance research and development (R&D) expenditure. What if we facilitate the cultural industry to use similar incentives and/or provide incentives to other corporates to help cultural institutions to, say, digitally transform? What if a utility company contributes the funds required for digitally transforming a Greek museum and help the latter develop virtual tours and/or augmented-reality experience? Why could not such program attract similar treatment?

The fifth and final point concerns decentralization: The creative industries’ output on GDP is poorly distributed among metropolitan hubs and the periphery. Athens and Thessaloniki account for 85% of such output in Greece. The problem of decentralizing is very complex, no doubt. Point solutions, such as the ambitious plan to promote filmmaking in Greece by our Center for Audiovisual Media and Communication (EKOME) resulted in the last years in filming in 150 distinct locations, with an important spillover in local economies. This is a good example, but we could do with a lot more.