11 May Greece’s investment potential remains as strong as ever
Georgios Filiopoulos, CEO, Enterprise Greece, explains why the country’s unique assets will be an advantage as it emerges from COVID-19
Greece has drawn global praise for its successful handling of the coronavirus crisis, in comparison with some other European countries. What impact will this have on the country in the short to medium term?
The fact that the Greek government acted quickly and decisively in containing the coronavirus outbreak sends a strong message that the country is committed to effective and transparent governance. This will have wider benefits, internally and externally, as the country moves forward.
It shows that Greece is a safe country to visit and to invest in, since we have managed so far to avoid the traumatic impacts of COVID-19 experienced elsewhere. It has also helped instill a newfound confidence here in Greece: a new public opinion survey, for example, shows that Greeks have growing trust in the country’s future, the government and the public health system.
There is no question that the world economy will suffer an extraordinary shock as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, and a contraction in the Greek economy of between 5 and 10 percent is expected this year. However, Greece’s quick reaction may help to soften the economic impact in the short to medium term and reboot our economy faster than some of the other economies around us.
Moreover, some of Greece’s unique assets, like a sophisticated life sciences sector, a highly educated workforce, a well-developed tech sector, and a health and wellness ecosystem, will be significant advantages as the world emerges from this pandemic.
What are the main lessons to be learned from the coronavirus crisis for Enterprise Greece, the official agency for promoting investment and exports that helps to make Greece more attractive as an international business partner?
The main lessons are that effective institutions are crucial, especially in times of crisis, and that cooperation, in your own backyard and internationally, is a critical tool in overcoming adversity. I would also add, as a manager, the importance of having a professional and dedicated staff, like we do here at Enterprise Greece.
Even before the crisis, the agency had already embarked on a process of aligning its operations to private sector standards. That allowed us to respond rapidly to changes in the environment.
How is Enterprise Greece adapting to the new reality and what innovative programs have you introduced?
To help Greek businesses and exporters, Enterprise Greece has launched a digital information campaign to inform them of the available economic support measures the government has undertaken to mitigate the economic impact of the pandemic.
Enterprise Greece has also launched a “Support Greek Exports” information campaign to support the sectors, products and services most affected. In parallel, we are working in close collaboration with our international partners—such as other European trade promotion agencies and the ANIMA Investment Network, a multi-country cooperation platform for economic development in the Mediterranean—to mitigate the impact on Greek SMEs.
In addition, exporters worldwide face some unique challenges, including constraints on foreign travel and, in some product categories such as medical equipment or certain commodity agricultural products—government export restrictions. To keep Greek exporters up-to-date on those developments, Enterprise Greece has launched a special newsfeed and interactive map to disseminate information regarding any restrictions imposed in countries of interest.
On top of that, we are in the process of creating a promotional product flipbook, organizing social media campaigns, producing foreign direct investment testimonials, and offering webinars for Greek companies.
Within the organization, my teams have inspired me by how well they responded to an extraordinary situation. Faced with a radically different workflow and work environment—we started working from home early in the crisis—our teams have come up with creative solutions at every turn. My main role has been to support them. As an organization, we are coming out of this experience with some important lessons that will serve us well as we go forward.
The second half of 2019 and the start of the new decade in January 2020 saw record levels of investment in Greece. To what extent is investment— both domestic and foreign—being affected by the COVID-19 crisis and how is Enterprise Greece working to mitigate the impact?
Greece’s underlying investment story remains intact, in spite of the coronavirus crisis. Market sources suggest that there is still strong international investor interest in privatizations and many of the infrastructure projects Greece has planned for the months ahead.
Sectors ranging from exports to property, energy, tourism and logistics remain attractive to international investors. And following 10 years of financial crisis, asset prices in Greece remain undervalued as the country is still building its new economy.
Major investors look at the long term and the long-term prospects for Greece have not changed. If anything, this crisis has brought some of the country’s assets to the forefront of public awareness. We expect to see greater interest in the Greek life sciences and tech sectors, for example, in the future.
Is there a silver lining to the coronavirus crisis in Greece?
The crisis triggered a digital leap forward in Greece. Before the crisis, the Greek government was planning to launch a new e-government platform to streamline public services. The crisis became a catalyst for more rapid implementation of those plans.
The new platform—gov.gr—launched two months ahead of schedule in response to the pandemic, offers more than 500 services online and new ones are being added constantly. This made a significant contribution to successfully managing the outbreak and has been well received by the public. For example, the new platform made it possible for 250,000 prescriptions to be given by SMS during the first month of the crisis, saving people with pre-existing conditions from having to visit a doctor to obtain their prescriptions.
This digital leap will greatly contribute to improved productivity and competitiveness for Greek businesses. The Greek government has been trying to encourage this through special programs to upgrade IT skills in the private sector. At the same time, the quarantine measures have given a boost to e-commerce and, going forward, I believe we will see a strengthening of online commerce and marketing by Greek businesses, including exporters.
Greece also has a strong health and life sciences sector, as well as a growing startup sector. A significant segment of Greek startups are involved in applications in the health sector. The coronavirus will continue to be an issue internationally for the foreseeable future, which provides an opening for Greek expertise to come to the forefront.
In short, Greece is fully prepared to move into this new era, and the proactive and efficient management of the coronavirus outbreak in Greece is bound to contribute to a positive image of our country.