Competitiveness needs realization of human resources

The debate on competitiveness within the European Union, a key factor for survival, is only just beginning in Greece, while the public is still far from appreciating its deeper implications, particularly as regards the obligations that accrue in an effort to attain a strong competitive position. Investment in infrastructure is necessary for improved competitiveness but not sufficient. If for instance, enterprises do not sprout up on both sides of the 680-km (422-mile) Egnatia highway, nearing completion and running the length of northern Greece, there will be no gain. It may be worth recalling that initial plans for logistics and storage installations along the highway were left on bureaucrats’ desks for years and, ultimately, were forgotten. The real hope for stronger competitiveness lies in a new incorporation and utilization of human resources, which would require new perceptions on education, labor relations and, finally, the role of government and firms. The constant upgrading of education levels, however, does not automatically mean improved professional advancement or better pay and prospects. It is only the combination of well-prepared human resources with the appropriate reception within the environment of the firm that can improve competitiveness. Unfortunately, the State, politicians and most firms remain bound by a repressive model for tapping the potential of human resources. A significantly high number of employers continue to give priority to the flexibility of the labor market while, in practice, firms are missing out on hiring able and dynamic staff at all levels. Obviously, the continuous upgrade of education must be accompanied by firms’ securing better prospects, serious professional challenges and encouragement toward continuous training. Greek enterprises urgently need to move toward better organizational levels with a view to such improvements. On the other hand, flexibility is probably necessary for that segment of the labor force with few qualifications, which requires appropriate welfare support schemes. The Greek economy is gradually entering the era of «syndicated capitalism,» where a mode of cooperation among firms, authorities and educational organizations is necessary. By remaining bound to a «managerial capitalism,» it seems we are achieving no more than loss of time and resources. This change begs a different mentality on the part of the State, limitations on the power of entrenched interests to organize production at a minimum level of collectivity, transparency and, ultimately, sincerity.