ECONOMY

Quality services are key to the future of Greece’s economy

What must be done to attract foreign capital to Greece in the future and to maintain a satisfactory investment growth rate? Recently, the future of foreign investment has had a prominent place in Greek financial news because such investment keeps declining, which is bad news for the future growth of jobs and incomes. Both Greek businessmen and international organizations, in their reports, have drawn attention to the reasons that cause foreign investors to lose interest in investing in Greece and move to more competitive countries. Only the government seems to still be wondering why this is happening. There is a lack of proposals for attracting foreign investments by taking account of Greece’s unique offerings. There are some ministry officials, bankers and businessmen however who believe that the future of the Greek economy lies in offering services with a high demand abroad. After all, Greece cannot compete in industrial wages – as the recent example of the Palco undergarment factory shows. It is impossible to retain such jobs if the foreign company, in this case Swiss-German Schiesser Pallas, is determine to move production to a lower-cost country. One obvious field is tourism. However, the way we approach tourism must change radically and be reoriented toward attracting middle- and high-income customers. Greece could also become a place of residence for wealthy northern European senior citizens, a sort of European Florida. This, however, needs political backing to proceed to a number of reforms, especially in the taxation of property, as well as in the improvement of transport. These reforms ought to include a change in antiquated property ownership regulations, which make it impossible for foreigners to own property in «border» areas, which, given Greece’s geography, include the largest parts of the country. Another, not so obvious category, in which Greece could offer high-quality services is healthcare. This may sound paradoxical, but, once one gets past the chaotic situation in outpatient wards, the level of healthcare in Greek hospitals is quite good. Plus, there is an abundance of highly trained, competent personnel. Greece could become a regional healthcare center, the way the UK – especially some London hospitals – has become. As a result of bilateral agreements, we have recently had the first British patients admitted to Greek hospitals, thus escaping the long waiting lines for their National Health Service. There is also an abundance of highly trained information technology specialists. IT services are a sector that could easily flourish in Greece.