Today, 20 September 2004, the Minister for Development, Dimitris Sioufas opened the third meeting of the National Competitiveness and Development Council (ESAA) on “Coordination between the ESAA and the Competitiveness Council of the European Union”. He was accompanied by deputy finance minister Christos Folias, deputy development minister Giorgos Salagoudis, general secretary for industry Spiros Papadopoulos, general secretary for trade Dimitris Vrettakou, and special secretary for competitiveness Spiros Efstathopoulos.
Today, 20 September 2004, the Minister for Development, Dimitris Sioufas opened the third meeting of the National Competitiveness and Development Council (ESAA) on “Coordination between the ESAA and the Competitiveness Council of the European Union”. He was accompanied by deputy finance minister Christos Folias, deputy development minister Giorgos Salagoudis, general secretary for industry Spiros Papadopoulos, general secretary for trade Dimitris Vrettakou, and special secretary for competitiveness Spiros Efstathopoulos. The meeting was held at the Ministry of Development (Conference Room).
In his speech, Mr Sioufas thanked the representatives of social and industrial bodies who are members of the National Competitiveness and Development Council (ESAA) and stressed the importance of the institution, noting the initiatives and measures that the Ministry of Development has taken to support and upgrade the Council and to create an umbrella of competitiveness throughout the country. Mr Sioufas listed the following examples of measures:
- We have broadened the composition of the Committee of Experts, which provides scientific support for the work of the ESAA so that it is able to cover more fully the range of issues examined by the Council.
- We are advancing the official establishment of the ESAA with a bill which is shortly to be tabled before parliament. This initiative broadens the composition of the Council by adding representatives of other ministries as members.
- The bill also includes the announcement of 2005 as Competitiveness Year, with the aim of raising awareness (among general government, the business community, social bodies, local government, the academic community, etc) about the concept, the benefits, the factors and the conditions for improving the competitiveness of the Greek economy and of businesses.
- The special report on competitiveness for 2004 has been ordered and is expected to be ready in early 2005. A study is being drawn up regarding the foundation of an Academy of Entrepreneurship. A study into the foundation of the European Development Institute is also being assigned.
Mr Sioufas then talked about some recent initiatives by the Ministry of Development to increase competitiveness, such as:
- Improving the functioning and effectiveness of bodies that support businesses, including the Hellenic Organization for Standardization, Investment Reception Centres, the Credit Guarantee Fund of Small and Very Small Enterprise (TEMPME), Business and Technological Development Centres, research centres, and centres of excellence, and upgrading the status of the Hellenic Competition Commission, making it a genuinely independent authority.
- Setting up the National Quality Council to support the work of the National Competitiveness and Development Council.
- Improving implementation of the Operational Programme for Competitiveness, simplifying and speeding up the procedures for announcing calls for proposals and approving businesses for inclusion in aid programmes, distributing resources in such a way as to increase available funds for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), and including trading enterprises in the Operational Programme for Competitiveness.
- Protecting lawful entrepreneurship and fighting illegal trade.
- Drafting a bill to simplify the institutional framework for authorising manufacturing businesses
- Intervening in the composition of procurement committees with the aim of transparency and greater participation of Greek SMEs in public contracts.
- Safeguarding energy supplies throughout Greece by promoting large-scale energy investments in the sectors of oil, natural gas, and renewable sources of energy.
- Planning and implementing a coherent strategy for Research and Technology.
- The general secretariat for consumer affairs was created and continues in its work. The consumer ombudsman bill is ready.
- Also ready is the bill for Centres of Fuel Inspection, Distribution and Storage (KEDAK), which aims to fight the illegal trade and adulteration of fuel.
Deputy finance minister Christos Folias then spoke. The following is an extract from his speech:
“If we do not improve our competitiveness so that we are able to rebuild the markets we once had, then we cannot hope to increase exports. Competitiveness is the sum total of many factors. Much has to happen to help improve the competitiveness of the economy and of businesses. Simplified tax procedures and legal frameworks for taxation, and reduced tax on business profits improve competitiveness. Lower taxation means lower costs, lower costs mean a higher, better competitive position, which means increased sales, greater market share, increased exports, and reduced imports. It means new investment; new investment means new jobs; new jobs mean lower unemployment, and so less money – real money – given in unemployment benefit, as if we are sustaining unemployment. That means more people working, more consumption, and so increased national wealth. That means greater demand and it becomes a spiral which I am sure will reach the point where we have increasingly positive results. In addition, the development law that we are working on is a law that genuinely moves towards increased investment, towards growth, towards growth with improved competitiveness. And as long as there is growth and improved competitiveness, there will be the new investment, new jobs, and simplified procedures that will make Greece more attractive for direct foreign investment.”