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29/04/2006 “Youth Entrepreneurship an engine for economic growth”

Article by the special secretary for competitiveness in the Greek edition of the Economist (published with Kathimerini on Saturday 29 April 2006)

“Young entrepreneurship an engine for economic growth”

In an age of knowledge and new technologies, cultivating an entrepreneurial spirit is a top priority and one of our most fundamental policy goals. Moreover, the Lisbon Strategy recognises entrepreneurship as a basic component for increasing competitiveness and employment. It is a fact that for Europe to successfully safeguard its social model, it needs greater growth, more investment and therefore more new businesses that are innovative and competitive.

Over the last two years we have been working hard to promote healthy entrepreneurship and increase the competitiveness of the Greek economy and Greek businesses. We are applying a new development model that removes guilt from the concept of profit and entrepreneurship, overturning the mistaken view that has become established in previous years and that has undermined the Greek business environment and the country’s development.

To this end, we declared the years 2005 to 2010 Competitiveness Years in order to mark the beginning of an intensive and well-planned effort to reverse the downturn of competitiveness in Greece.

One of the fundamental objectives of this effort is to make setting-up a business a positive choice and not a last resort. Indeed, last year we saw a positive development for Greece. According to the annual report of the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) for 2005, the proportion of 18-64 year-olds who are in the process of setting out on some form of entrepreneurial activity rose by more than 12% over 2004. Even more important is the fact that “opportunity entrepreneurship” is steadily on the increase, while “necessity entrepreneurship” is falling. “Necessity entrepreneurship” fell from 39% in 2003 to 14.5% last year. That means that in the space of two years it fell by more than 60%.

We believe that supporting healthy entrepreneurship, and especially entrepreneurship among young people, is an absolutely fundamental measure for the development of the country, the creation of more and better jobs, and improved quality of life for all citizens. We are determined to encourage it in every way possible, so that we can lead the country along the path of progress and development.

In this effort, the Ministry of Development has at its disposal an important tool: the Operational Programme for Competitiveness, which has a total budget of €6.52 billion. The programme places particular emphasis on encouraging entrepreneurship among young people, with one of its Actions offering 55% financing for business plans by young people aged between 18 and 39.

So far, 3680 business plans from young entrepreneurs have been approved, with a total budget of €300 million, 2170 of them during the Action’s fourth cycle in 2005.

At the same time, the Operational Programme for Competitiveness is financing training and transfer of know-how to young entrepreneurs whose plans have already been approved. So we are supporting the sustainability of the businesses that are created, and are safeguarding their contribution to economic growth and stronger long-term competitiveness.

To help spread the concept of entrepreneurship and boost business education, we are for the first time, in collaboration with the Ministry of Education, organising a nationwide competition with the title “Idea, Innovation, Creativity, Competitiveness”, as part of Competitiveness Years 2005-2010. The award ceremony was held on 4 April at the Old Parliament, in the presence of the education minister Marietta Yannakou and development minister Dimitris Sioufas.

Four hundred and one students from the second grade of 61 Lyceums all over Greece submitted 79 entries, showing how interested students are in competitiveness and entrepreneurship. The entries were in the form of business plans created by the students to improve the competitiveness of businesses near their schools.

We believe that business education makes it more likely that new businesses will be created and is absolutely essential both for the self-employed and for the employees of every business, regardless of size or sector.

Initiatives such as this competition give pupils the chance to acquire basic entrepreneurial skills, and to develop aspects of their personality including cooperation, team spirit, enthusiasm and self-confidence.

Greece needs the inventiveness and the positive thinking of its young people, and is counting on them.

That is why we are taking initiatives to support healthy entrepreneurial activity, which is a necessary condition for the growth of our economy. We are providing practical encouragement and support for the creation of sustainable and competitive businesses through a range of measures. We are creating an institutional framework that encourages and supports all entrepreneurs. And the promotion of entrepreneurship and innovation are fundamental priorities of the Ministry of Development’s next Operational Programme, covering the 2007-2013 Programming Period.

Spiros Efstathopoulos
Special Secretary for Competitiveness

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The O.P. "Competitiveness" is co-funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), the European Social Fund (ESF), the Greek Government and private funds.
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