ECONOMY

Natural advantages can give the economy a whole new direction

One could well say that the hour of judgment is approaching for the Greek economy, as the expectations created by the European Union’s massive Third Community Support Framework investment subsidy program and the Olympic Games are coming home to roost, without any impressive results. The economy is closing one chapter and needs to open a new one to ensure its survival on the international scene. Most projects will have been completed in a few months and the pundits predict the construction sector will enter a serious downturn, while the Games are not seen as conferring the much-anticipated benefits upon tourism either. Up to 2000, the goal that seemed to function as a reference point for the economy was the prospect of entry into the eurozone. After this was achieved, it was largely replaced by the goal of a flurry of large projects combined with the Olympic Games. Now what? A number of analysts are putting forward proposals on the basis of a new orientation for the economy, spearheaded by the country’s natural attributes. Besides being a favorite holiday destination, they argue, Greece could attract a large number of higher-income-bracket, long-term residents from the rest of Europe, becoming, in a way, a European Florida. Based on the comparative advantage over tourism, the country could also develop more services in which demand is now growing internationally, such as health, education and culture, as well as developing a huge services industry that could give it a distinct identity in international competition and attract considerable amounts of capital. The rate at which foreigners are buying real estate in the regions is a strong indication that things can move in this direction. What is needed is the political will to promote more organized schemes through private enterprise. An older study has already indicated that the market is there. It is estimated that 85 million northern Europeans will have exceeded the age of 65 at the end of the decade.