ECONOMY

Nationwide competition aims to promote market economy ‘literacy’

The University of Piraeus is organizing a nationwide business plan competition for students of tertiary education, with the novel aim of «indirectly promoting literacy in the market economy, with a view to creating support for economic reforms that can boost the country’s competitiveness and help disseminate the concept of entrepreneurship in Greek society.» Kathimerini asked the coordinator of the competition, professor of business organization and administration Emmanuel Kondylis, how widespread «economic illiteracy» is in Greece. «Unfortunately, until recently, when economics was introduced as a subject in secondary education, most citizens received an education that did not provide basic knowledge of how the market economy operates, not even the law of supply and demand. The result is that we have citizens who do not understand elementary things, such as that there is no such thing as a free lunch, that everything has its cost and that initiative and risk are important elements for a society’s survival in international competition,» says Kondylis. He explains that when people are unaware of such basic principles, they are often reluctant to support economic reform measures like a reduction in the public sector. The result is that governments find it difficult to apply rational economic programs and adapt to citizens’ inadequate expectations of what needs to be done, resorting to roundabout routes in pursuing results. Kondylis has high hopes the competition will help the effort to disseminate the concept of entrepreneurship, and promote individual business activity and active initiatives that can help people shape the future in a creative way, rather than passively dealing with situations and problems. Changing attitudes «We are trying to fight the ‘government, find me a job so I can relax’ attitude, and promote the idea of the provision of a stable institutional framework and incentives so that people can determine the conditions for self-employment and create new products and services from which they and society – directly or indirectly – will benefit.» The University of Piraeus was assigned the organization of the competition after winning a Ministry of Education tender in which the Athens University of Economics, the National Technical University of Athens and Thessaloniki’s Aristotle University also participated. The Piraeus proposal is based on the cultivation and encouragement of the entrepreneurial spirit among young people and students, and is open to ideas of other citizens who can participate in groups of between two and six people; these must include at least one student. «In this way we hope to have more realistic proposals than would have been the case if the groups were composed exclusively of students. And we give a chance to anyone wishing to participate,» Kondylis says. The competition will take place in two phases: the Entrepreneurial Idea, described briefly, and the Entrepreneurial Plan, to be described more extensively and which will include the implementation of the proposal. The competition will be launched through a press announcement at the end of the month; the submission of Entrepreneurial Ideas is planned for late November and of the Entrepreneurial Plans for February 2005. The winning plans will be promoted for implementation in Greece and possibly abroad. A very important feature of the competition is that the plans will be based on real market values and will be considered for financing by venture capital firms. Well-known professors E.S. Savas and Robert Hisrich will act as know-how advisers, and will be supplemented by prominent business leaders as mentors, judges and assessors. «We have already contacted prominent business executives and have found widespread support. We manage to bring together not just generations but also various philosophies, trends, currents, ideas and disciplines,» Kondylis stresses, repeating that entrepreneurship is a creative process par excellence, enabling groups of people to combine their knowledge and abilities to greater effect than the sum of individual efforts would produce. He reminds us that the definition of synergy is «1+1=3.» The program is based on new educational methods tapping Internet and multimedia technology, and makes use of an extensive and growing number of organizations. All participants will have access to a «hot-line mentoring» service through a free phone line. An online mentoring service in forum form will also be available on an Internet site.