New businesses opening up in Greece continue to be focused on catering and entertainment rather than the sectors of manufacturing or technology. According to a report by Endeavor Greece published in Kathimerini on February 2, after eight years of recession, the Greeks that can still invest are putting their money into new cafes, bars and souvlaki joints, while factories are closing. The report also stressed that, based on data for January-November 2016, the vast majority (84 percent) of new businesses are catering to the domestic market and have no export orientation.
Is this the result of a lack of imagination, laziness, inertia, the attraction of a quick solution and a job, a sense of hopelessness or a combination of these? The fact is that what we call investment in Greece – a term that covers a wide range of activities – follows a model that can be described as anything but extroverted. In contrast, it reproduces a familiar and well-tried formula. After all, what do we see all around us every day? Bars, cafes and restaurants. Is anyone looking beyond the obvious? Looking for something that requires specialized skills or knowledge and may not bring instant rewards? Looking to produce goods that can compete in a globalized market?
Such a shift requires a lot of hard work and a new generation of people who were not raised to only look forward to a quick and easy profit, as has been the rule in Greece for decades now. Despite the huge changes and upsets that continue to be brought on by the crisis, it seems almost impossible to uproot this mentality and nostalgia for the way things once were. They are rationalized and persistent, and while they may be losing some of their allure, they still appear as prevalent factors in surveys and studies. Furthermore, seasonal employment and all the mom-and-pop stores that continue to survive by the skin of their teeth create fertile ground for populism and divisiveness to take root.
Innovation, in contrast, results in people looking beyond this country’s borders, investing in hope and taking risks. Obviously there are businesses in Greek that are innovative, bold and always looking for the next step forward. And if red tape and excessive taxes were not conspiring to quash them, if their efforts were backed by a government that was friendly toward investment, then maybe the Greek business landscape would be able to change at a faster pace. Instead, like everything else in this country, it too appears trapped in a shrinking and introverted world.