ECONOMY

Exports rose in 2003, reversing a decade-long trend

Greek exports rose to record levels in 2003 and are set to rise yet again this year, according to the Panhellenic Exporters’ Association (PSE). PSE president Christina Sakellaridi said yesterday that an analysis of data provided by the National Statistics Service (NSS) shows that, in euro terms, the value of Greek exports rose 7.5 percent, to 11.772 billion. In dollar terms, Greek exports rose 29 percent, to $13.268 billion. This is the first time since 1992 that Greece’s share of global exports has risen, Sakellaridi said. Despite this, Greek exports are still very low, the lowest among European Union states, and in absolute, not just relative, terms. The country’s trade deficit increased further, as imports rose 20.1 percent, in euro terms, to 39.719 billion. Competitiveness too low «The main problem for Greek exports is low competitiveness,» Sakellaridi said, adding that «export competitiveness presupposes a change in the kind of products exported, a technology upgrade for exporting firms, further specialization and a bigger size for domestic firms.» The latter, at least, is being accomplished. Other exporters remarked that the size of the average exporting firm is increasing and that Greek firms, in general, are becoming more export oriented. During the past decade, turnover at many Greek enterprises expanded from five up to 40 times. Exporters called on the government to take immediate measures to help improve competitiveness, reduce bureaucracy, allow Greek firms easier access to incentive programs run by the EU, provide incentives for the creation of innovative small firms, encourage spending on research and development and remove any major tax disincentives. PSE also announced that it is looking to finance an «Exports Observatory» and create materials showing the best markets for each exporting sector. PSE also called for more money from the EU-funded Third Community Support Framework (CSF III) and announced a program to train executives at small and medium-sized firms in e-commerce. It also said it would increase its presence abroad, helping promote Greek companies and products.