NEWS

Entrepreneurs unable to obtain relevant EU funds as they fritter away time on fruitless paper chase

The project is announced mid-February and applications have to be submitted by the end of April. No less than 34 forms are required, obtainable from a plethora of state services that are not exactly famed for their speed and readiness. The hopeful young farmer misses the deadlines… An entrepreneur dreams of setting up a small, seven-bedroom hostel. He learns about the relevant program a few days before it is announced and rushes to a local councilor, who draws up a proposal. But he does not have the time to amass 16 assorted forms and certificates within a month… The above scenarios are all too familiar to those who embark on the paper chase known as «participation in Third Community Support Framework (CSFIII) programs.» In another case, the hopeful applicant has been informed in time by the business consultant he turned to for help and is ready with his sheaf of documents. But then he stumbles over an unforeseen clause in the announcement. He is an entrepreneur with large sums tucked away in the bank that he hopes to use in order to start up a small to medium-sized enterprise. The deposits have enabled him to navigate one reef – the existence of own capital – and he gets the necessary certificate straightaway. However, he is asked for still one more certificate, which will state that his bank looks favorably on the possibility of furnishing him with loans if he finally gets into the program (one part own capital, one part funding and one part loans). The paper is not binding on the bank but rigid thinking is not the prerogative of public services: In order to grant the certificate, the bank director demands the whole file that has been submitted to the ministry. Moreover, he also requests a certificate from the bank that proved the entrepreneur has deposits. «But you gave me that document last week,» utters the entrepreneur. «It doesn’t matter,» the bank manager coolly replies. «Bring it here so that I can see it.» And of course, the second certificate is never granted. The program for developing small and medium-sized enterprises has been assigned to banks to carry out. The banks run – if that’s the word – the program and support the development aspirations of their clients by handing out, like so many secretaries, forms to be filled in by business people. Other help for those entrepreneurs, who frequently have not finished high school, let alone university, is not deemed necessary. Problems galore An experienced artisan, who may have been successful in his field for the past 20 years, hesitates to appeal to a young, banking technocrat. «How will you finance your project?» asks the youngster. «My lad, I work with metals. That fancy stuff comes a lot later,» the artisan replies. And the technocrat wonders how it will be possible for someone to enter a program when «he lacks knowledge of basic concepts.» A paper chase, tight time limits to prepare files, lack of information, insufficient knowledge of the real state of affairs in Greece, disorganization and makeshift solutions in the state sector (a perfect environment for fostering longstanding corruption), problems in the banking system, middlemen who ensure access to or exclusion from the program, and lack of development planning by politicians all shape a picture of an inherent and systemic inability to make Community programs accessible and citizen-friendly.