A Greek failure

The interview with Lothar Brucher, a member of Schiesser’s board, in today’s English Edition of Kathimerini where he explains the Swiss-German company’s decision to shut down its Greek factory (and lay off 500 workers at Palco, its Greek subsidiary) echoes an employer’s perspective but still points to the undisputable parameters that we have all known for a long time: The liberalization of international trade and the abolition of tariffs have flooded home markets with goods that are produced in developing countries where salaries are one-tenth of Greek ones. As a result, the sectors that have their base in large generally untrained staff fail to withstand the pressures of outside competition. This problem lies at the heart of politics, as the abolition of trade barriers loses its great appeal if it can be proved that it produces unemployment or that it causes the debasement of workers in more advanced economies. However, the downside of trade liberalization has long been known. We also know that it harms certain sectors in particular. The textile industry that used to flourish in Greece is one of the worst-hit sectors in the last 30 years. Most of the largest textile industries – such as Piraiki-Patraiki, Egeon, and Vomvikas – have closed down. Knitting factories have collapsed. Over the last three years, even the spinning factories have halted production. And although everyone could see the approaching winds of change, Greece failed to hold a comprehensive debate on the issue – neither at a political level, nor at the level of the troubled sectors. Despite our differences in terms of tradition and size, the lack of serious discussion on the issue is, no doubt, one of the reasons behind the demise of the local textile sector, while Italy has managed to maintain a part of its textile industry. Unfortunately, the absence of serious talk is common to all major issues in Greece – from the problems that beset the industrial sector to political corruption. Flamboyant stances and sloganeering tend to sideline proposals. We don’t look beyond the accusations concerning the layoffs or dubiously built villas. And we thus fail to avert the closure of the next factory, and the corruption of the next politician.