ECONOMY

Time for serious application to the nitty-gritty

The political standoff over the government’s revision of the fiscal figures of recent years, its possible repercussions and the political responsibilities it brings out no longer have any significant meaning. On the contrary, it may even be considered misleading, in the sense that those in charge of public affairs now have to change their orientation and focus on the pressing problems of the real economy. A clearer picture of the fiscal situation was surely needed, but the hard truth lies elsewhere – in the difficult situation over employment, the turnover and profits of firms, the stagnation of exports and the major structural problems of the farm sector. All these problems, and each one separately, are matters of the foremost concern. Thankfully, the government’s recently introduced investment incentives show a turn in the direction of the real economy. But only time will show how seriously it will apply itself in this new direction. Besides, in the domain of microeconomics, general declarations are of no import. It is generally acknowledged, for instance, that Greek virgin olive oil is of good quality and that the global market for the product is growing. But although Greek olive oil has all the attributes of a dynamic export product, a recent study by the Association of Exporters of Northern Greece belies the general optimistic picture. Most Greek virgin olive oil ends up in the world markets through Italy. These quantities are exported in bulk to the neighboring country, from where it leaves in standard packaged form and having incorporated significant added value. In 2003, Italy received 79 percent of the total Greek virgin olive oil exported, totaling 186 million euros in value. One may only take heart from the fact that this percentage was lower than the average in recent years (84 percent in 1999, 83 percent in 2000 and 82 percent in 2001) although higher than in 2002 (74 percent). The acceleration of the growth of Greek virgin olive oil exports in standardized packaged form is an issue that should be addressed by all concerned. The example is telling because the usual excuses are not present here. The country possesses the raw material, while neither very advanced technology nor huge amounts of capital are required. There is no competition from low-cost countries, either. Some serious application should be all it takes.