Greek businesses that survived the crisis became more resilient, turning their focus on exports and becoming more competitive, but now is the time to invest in human resources, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said at the 2019 Hellenic Federation of Enterprises (SEV) Industrial Conference in Athens on Thursday evening.
Mitsotakis took part in a discussion with SEV President Theodore Fessas at the “Industry 4.0: A growth opportunity Greece should not miss” conference, where he also took questions from the audience.
The government believes in industry and manufacturing, the PM said. “Industry has many well-compensated jobs and in general leads in innovation and research,” he noted. “Greek enterprises that survived the years of the crisis became much stronger. They were forced to turn to exports and become more competitive,” Mitsotakis said, adding that these businesses of any size formed a foundation “on which we may stand and make the great leap” forward.
Asked which country he sees as a model, he declined to name any, saying that Greece, “has unique comparative advantages that allow it to set out on its own special path.”
In terms of best practices, however, his government is following developments in other countries related to digitization and environmental protection, he said. Citing Great Britain, for example, he said “it has a portal through which businesses and citizens access the digital world,” and “we have worked a lot with Estonia on issues of digital identity.”
In addition, he pointed out that “Greece has a stable and independent government which came to apply its program. This is foreign to Europe at this point.” Mitsotakis also referred to indications that Greek society would support these changes, citing as examples the anti-smoking law and changes in education towards new skill sets. “We will free state universities so they may come closer to society’s needs,” he said.
The prime minister then called SEV to honor what he termed ‘An agreement of truth’: “We are reducing business taxes, simplifying the business environment, planning to reduce surcharges on wages – including the solidarity fee and employer contributions – and we are helping liquidity by intervening in the banking system and by using NSRF funding more efficiently.” In turn, he said to the SEV audience, “your responsibilities are to expand Greek businesses – either on their own or through mergers – through company groups and business collaborations, and it is imperative that you invest in human resources.”
Referring to the so-called brain drain, he said “the last thing I wish for is to have Greek businesses lose staff to jobs abroad, not because of lack of jobs here, but because their available income after taxes and contributions makes working in Greece unattractive.”
Mitsotakis also announced that a National Industrial Council would be set up for specific issues, some of them appearing after the 20th century, that will bring the state and social partners together over the future and industry’s digitization. “A specific plan with rules and funding that includes human resources and specific targets and timetables will be available soon,” he said.
“As the year wraps up we have accomplished the targets we set,” Mitsotakis said. “This is particularly important, because part of the process of restoring trust in the political system goes through our political credibility,” meaning the government has delivered on its electoral campaign promises. “This may be unusual for Greek standards, but for me it’s a rule I have no intention of deviating from.”