OPINION

An injection of positive energy

an-injection-of-positive-energy

The return of many young Greeks after years spent abroad is the most uplifting thing I’ve heard lately. We’re talking about the brain-drain generation that took off for other countries when Greece sank into economic and social depression. I have looked for figures to demonstrate the trend, but it is still too soon for reliable studies. But all around me, I hear of examples: a computer programmer who came back from Germany, a doctor from the United Kingdom, an engineer from the Gulf… They all found work here, and with decent salaries too.

Perhaps they are isolated cases that appear to represent something more permanent in a mind thirsting for good news. But the fact is that the pandemic has changed everything, the country has emerged from the financial crisis and it has a government that believes in business. It is doing everything it can to reduce taxes and social security contributions, key obstacles for many people wanting to return to Greece. In the meantime, an entire generation of Greeks have been awakened to the country’s comparative advantages, as a result of the pandemic. Some they had not imagined, such as, for example, that Greece would have a vaccination system that is more organized than that of Germany or the United States.

Another thing that the coronavirus changed is that now a Greek programmer or an accountant can work from their home here or even from a cafe in Ioannina, for a multinational firm – surely preferable to working in the overcast and rainy climes of Central or Northern Europe.

This combination of factors has stopped the brain drain and encouraged a brain gain that is still taking baby steps.

Greece has an enormous amount of talent, incredible human capital, that is, alas, outside its borders. A large proportion of graduates from some of its university schools have all the qualifications needed to be successful anywhere. I am proud as a Greek to hear the head of a multinational talking about the resistance they met from their executives when they wanted to expand to Greece or open a branch here and how the doubters were turned around by the high quality of the resumes that were sent in and even more by the candidates they interviewed for jobs. The high quality of the people and the strength of their qualifications have prompted many foreign companies to expand their operations further and create even more jobs.

Does all this mean that Greece has become the Denmark of the South? No, definitely not. If, however, we manage to win back a sufficient number of young Greeks to form a solid foundation, there is much to gain. We need their optimism, their professionalism, all those qualities they gained from their experience abroad. We need a healthy injection of positive energy.