Competitiveness lags, despite economic diplomacy

The government yesterday urged Greek entrepreneurs to make the best use of the assistance offered by economic diplomacy and tap the huge opportunities both inside and outside the country’s borders. «The role of the state is not be a businessman, but to support entrepreneurship, to guarantee the smooth functioning of the market and be a custodian of the public interest so as to ensure that the provision of social services is not upset,» Deputy Foreign Minister Petros Doukas said at a luncheon at the Athens Chamber of Commerce and Industry (EBEA). He said the Foreign Ministry was seeking close cooperation with EBEA with a view to overcoming the difficulties faced by Greek firms in their export drive and in partnerships with foreign investors at home. «The goal of economic diplomacy is not just to open the way for large enterprises but mainly to help the smaller concerns from all over the country,» he said. Doukas also said he was in favor of «Greek solutions» in the privatization of public enterprises, through the formation of consortiums of Greek concerns which would submit bids. In this, he appeared to clash with a view repeatedly expressed in the past by Economy Minister Giorgos Alogoskoufis that the government preferred a large European telecoms operator for a strategic partnership with Greece’s OTE. Indeed, the government had passed legislation to prevent Marfin Investment Group (MIG), Greece’s largest buyout firm, from gaining a large stake in OTE through the stock market. Last week it announced an agreement with Deutsche Telekom to hold equal shares in OTE and the Germans to assume the management. Greece has fallen nine places, from 36th to 45th, in the overall IMD World Competitiveness Yearbook this year, according to a presentation by the Northern Greece Exporters Association yesterday. In the Economic Performance index, Greece fell from 46th to 48th place. In the Government Efficiency index, it slipped 16 places, going down from 30th to 46th. In the Entrepreneurial Efficiency index, it is seven places lower, from 35th to 42nd, and in the Infrastructures index it fell one place to 35th.