Ambassador Pyatt: Greece needs to support its ‘creative entrepreneurs’

U.S. Ambassador to Greece Geoffrey Pyatt on Monday presented the U.S. perspective on the prospects of the Greek economy, echoing U.S. President Barack Obama’s emphasis on democracy, innovation but also the responsibility of government’s to protect equality and those “left behind” by globalisation.

Addressing the 27th annual Greek Economy Conference “Greece and the Global Disruptive Environment: A look into the future” oganised by the American-Hellenic Chamber of Commerce in Athens, he also praised the indomitable Greek spirit and noted that Greeks had not allowed the long years of crisis to break them:

“Instead, what I have seen, throughout the country are creative people making changes in their communities. They’re building networks, both in Greece and internationally, they’re crowdfuding, seeking ways to attrack foreign investors,” he said.

The Greek government had to find ways to support and encourage this entrepreneurship and innovation, provide incentives for young people to invest their talents and put their “business roots down in Greece” by creating a good environment for starting a business, he said.

Citing Obama again, Pyatt emphasised that countries could not “shy away from globalisation” but must embrace the new technology and the new kinds of jobs this will create, looking forward, not back.

Pyatt also pledged the support of the U.S. in this effort, outlining embassy initiatives toward this goal and urged the Greek government to continue the reform process, by improving the regulatory environment, cutting red tape and making it easier to start and do business.

Initiatives leading to “concrete improvements in the business and regulatory environment,” a stable tax system and the repayment of tax arrears would signal to both local business people and foreign investors that the Greek government was a “good partner” and that there are opportunities for successful investment in Greece, he said.

He repeated Obama’s message that austerity alone cannot be an adequate prescription and that Greece needs a growth strategy as well, in order to increase revenues and relieve debt.

Pyatt said that current Greek-U.S. bilateral trade was “lower than it should be” and pledged to try and reverse a trend for declining U.S. investment in Greece, calling on the Greek government to give private U.S. firms the support they need to “grow and prosper in this country.

The ambassador also emphasised the importance of energy and a secure energy supply for the economy, as well as Greece’s role in this area.

“Greece has made great strides in developing its renewable energy sources and is a key player in efforts to ensure diversity of supply for natural gas in southeast Europe. Greece and its partners have taken important steps toward the completion of the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline (TAP), which is a key element of the southern gas corridor,” Pyatt said, adding that the U.S. will continue to provide strong support for these regional energy projects.

TAP, LNG terminals and other critical energy projects around Greece will provide “true diversification for the first time in southeast Europe,” and greater security, he added.

He expressed hope that 2017 will be the turning point for Greece and lead to a recovery in which small businesses and entrepreneurs will be the “backbone” of the new Greek economy, “powered by new ideas and transformative technology”.