Greece’s growth strategy to emphasise jobs and high added value production, expert committee says

Increasing employment and shifting the economic model toward the production of high added-value goods and services will be the central focus of Greece’s growth strategy leading up to 2021, the Expert Committee of the Growth Council indicated after its first session. During the meeting, which was held at the economy and development ministry on Saturday, there was a presentation of the 190-page document outlining Greece’s “National Growth Strategy 2021”.

The plan, while including important elements such as reforms and privatisations as means for attracting foreign investments, debt settlement and avoiding excessive surpluses, is chiefly structured on three fundamental and interacting directions:

1. A change in the production model with a shift toward a knowledge economy, preserving the country’s comparative advantage by retaining a highly-skilled human workforce and counteracting current trends forcing the most highly skilled young people to seek work abroad. The plan stressed that action must be taken to reverse this trend, not only for the sake of economic recovery but also to stop a reduction in the population of the country. It proposed policies to alleviate unemployment, both short-term and long-term, such as community work, policies for the return of Greek scientists from abroad and others, to be implemented alongisde existing employment policies and aiming at a reduction of the unemployment rate by 10 percentage points.

2. Closely coordinated and cohesive planning, as well as effective implementation of policies, especially those relating to development and growth. According to the report, the lack of these has been a perennial weakness of efforts for economic growth in Greece and is crucially important at this time, when the goal of changing the growth model requires building new comparative advantages.

3. Combining efforts to exit the crisis with efforts to reduce social and regional inequalities. A central tenet of the strategic plan is that the excessive inequality in Greece, dating back before the crisis and then further intensified by the policies adopted against it, is not just socially unfair but also deeply undermining to growth.

Among others, the plan noted the major changes and reforms that have been carried out in Greece, saying that significant investment opportunities were re-emerging after a long period of disinvestment. The strategy will seek to exploit and encourage an overall change in culture in Greek society, the plan said, noting a more “mature and demanding” attitude in Greek society to consumption, relations with the state and political system and awareness of the problems caused by both public and private debt.

The ‘National Growth Strategy 2021’ aims to complement the Medium-Term Fiscal Strategy 2015-2018 and the National Strategic Reference Framework (NSRF) 2014-2020, the document said.

Key proposals included in the plan relate to financing for small and medium-sized enterprises via micro-loans ranging from 5,000-20,000 euros, using various financial instruments.

Also proposed is a bill that exempts senior bank executives and public-sector officials from prosecution, tax incentives for restructuring loans, the write-off of loans and a real estate register for the publication of their purchase prices.

Proposals for exploiting state property, meanwhile, include: legislating for a body to implement, coordinate and monitor the work of exploiting state property assets; selecting the real estate to be immediately put to use, through privatisations, private-public partnerships or under state control; creating a full register of state property on a single database; and rationalising laws on cooperatives, the transfer of bankrupt or abandoned businesses to employee cooperatives and mixed ownership and operation formations.