OPINION

Trimming the red tape

For years we have been grumbling about the absence of real investment in Greece and complaining about how foreign investors keep turning away from the country. The absence of foreign investment is evident in our own neighborhoods; sometimes even in our own house. Everyone knows of someone who is without a job and we know that unemployment can be the source of a great deal of grief and frustration. Over the years there has been no shortage of political promises that the situation will be reversed. Voters have repeatedly heard that the procedures for creating new businesses will be simplified and that the government will inaugurate one-stop services so that people will not have to go through the red tape of the state to start up their own businesses. However, official World Bank data show that Greece is still miles away from direct, bureaucracy-free investment. The official number of days one needs to set up a new business is 38 working days; but such numbers do not tell the whole truth. One also has to put up with long queues and corrupt-prone officials. The government of Belgium recently succeeded where Greece has failed by introducing what is called the Kafka red-tape reducing initiative. Through it the number of days required to start up a new business has been reduced progressively from 56 to just four. Hence, by introducing simple but clever measures, Belgium succeeded in taming the beast of bureaucracy when we are merely staring at it. We should not stop at expressing our admiration for the Belgian success story. The conservative government must examine how Brussels managed to bring about this impressive improvement and adapt the mechanism to Greek reality. Greece must establish its own Kafka program so that outstanding investments will escape the grip of bureaucracy. Greece is thirsty for new investment; this is evident by the fiscal numbers and the high unemployment rate.