ECONOMY

It’s time to think big

National Bank of Greece (NBG) governor Theodoros Karatzas yesterday urged Greek businesses to think big and focus on quality in a two-pronged strategy to counter intense competition in the single currency eurozone. With Greece one of 12 countries set to adopt the euro on January 1, 2002, companies will for the first time face the reality of new competitors and new standards of comparison. Karatzas said the challenge ahead for Greek companies is to converge to the standards of its counterparts in the eurozone. This is imperative in view of the fact that comparisons in terms of size, performance and output will now be easier and immediate with one currency circulating in the region. The NBG head’s apprehension over the Greek level of competitiveness echoes similar concerns expressed by the Bank of Greece and industrialists in the run-up to the adoption of the euro. The central bank in its autumn monetary policy report said structural reforms are a key component of competitiveness. The Federation of Greek Industries, in turn, has called on the government to step up the pace of reforms to counter Greece’s deteriorating competitiveness as evidenced in this year’s Global Competitiveness Report drawn up by the World Economic Forum. Karatzas said one way of responding to the new challenge would be for companies to acquire larger mass which would enable them to stand out among the crowd. «We must gain magnitude on a European scale,» the NBG head stressed. The bank, meanwhile, has already acquired greater dimensions with its takeover of Alpha Bank, the second-largest financial institution in the country. Karatzas said the next stage for NBG is to upgrade its performance and services and cut down on costs as part of a strategy to improve its level of competitiveness. He said the next step for local companies is to improve the quality of their products and services. «The products and services we offer to international markets must meet their demands,» he said.