ECONOMY

Competitiveness not a Greek word

Greece slipped down a global list assessing competitiveness levels, falling below nations such as Rwanda and Botswana, in a decline unlikely to be reversed for a number of years. According to an annual survey put together by the World Economic Forum, Greece fell 12 places to position 83 among 139 countries. «The decline follows the well-publicized revision of the government’s fiscal spending numbers and the ensuing sovereign debt crisis,» it said. Greece scored poorly due to its public institutions, assessments of government efficiency and corruption, and its inefficient labor market, the report added. The rankings are based on 12 pillars of competitiveness, including, among others, an assessment of infrastructure, macroeconomic stability, health and primary education, financial market sophistication and innovation. Switzerland topped the global list, followed by Sweden and Singapore. Scared of shaking the public opinion boat, consecutive Greek governments have failed to make crucial reforms to keep up with the country’s faster-evolving neighbors. Changes such as making it easier to start a business and moves to stamp out corruption have been repeatedly promised but not delivered. Experts, however, believe that Greece’s commitments to its lenders, the European Commission and the International Monetary Fund, in exchange for a 110-billion-euro rescue plan will force the government into swift action but improvements will take time to appear. «Conditions are more ripe for reforms to go ahead, such as changes to closed professions,» National Bank economist Nikos Magginas told Kathimerini English Edition. «The benefits will start to appear in the medium term.» Among changes likely to take place at the end of the year is the opening up of closed-shop professions and the privatization of loss-making state enterprises, such as the badly indebted Hellenic Railways Organization. Looking ahead, the report struck a positive note, saying that Greece has a number of strengths, «including a reasonably well-educated work force that is adept at adopting new technologies for productivity enhancements.» [email protected]