A leap forward

Barring any reservations about the cost of hosting the Athens Olympics, most would agree that the Games helped upgrade the country’s infrastructure and advertise the country to the world. The revival of Greece’s image as a tourist destination alone was worth the people’s sacrifices. The extensive publicity that came with the Games is expected to boost Greece’s tourism industry in the years to come. According to an Alpha Bank study, the promotion of the country and investment in infrastructure could push the number of foreign visitors from 13 million this year up to 18 million in 2010. Even if this scenario turns out to be overoptimistic, conditions for a smaller tourism boom are still in place. The point is to sustain this still-tentative trend. The government must take initiatives in the business operating environment, which affects competitiveness and the confidence of companies. Tourism professionals and the local administration must protect the environment, upgrade services and fight profiteering. Future economic growth will depend largely on improving the quality of services. Despite fiscal constraints, there are enough funds to sustain a long-term high growth rate that will boost national prosperity. The Third Community Support Framework (CSFIII), of which only 30 percent has been absorbed, allows for 30 billion euros’ worth of investment plans for the 2004-2008 period. Greece must become a hub of the eastern Mediterranean, bringing together entrepreneurs from the broader region. As Europe’s closest link to both the East and the Balkans, Greece can open up its economy to the outside world. It has the potential for progress and enjoys a comparative advantage over its neighbors who want closer ties to Europe. All we need is vision and determination. The society is mature and ready to make the great leap.

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