“It is now generally agreed that the competitiveness of a country’s economy is the key to growth, prosperity and social cohesion. In Greece, unfortunately, in previous years, competitiveness has shown a continuous fall rather than improving. The truth about the situation we are facing is harsh. Accelerated rates of economic progress have not led to an improved ranking for Greece from the point of view of competitiveness. Greece comes last in every index of international competitiveness. And the fact that this situation has been getting steadily worse since 2001 is of course extremely serious. However, we are determined to succeed, and to lead Greece to a much higher position in competitiveness. We have declared 2005 Competitiveness Year and we are working to change things. To create the conditions for a Greece that is becoming ever more competitive. In contrast with the practices of the past, we are not hiding the truth and we are working to correct what has gone wrong.
In the framework of Competitiveness Year 2005, the Ministry of Development is today presenting the study that we have just handed out to you, which for the first time gathers together all the competitiveness indexes that are widely used internationally. It is a reliable means of recording the situation that exists today and diagnosing the strengths and weaknesses that form this country’s competitive position. In a few days we will also publish the National Competitiveness and Development Council’s Competitiveness Report for 2004. At this point I want to congratulate and thank the authors of the study, as well as all of you who are here with us today.
The participation of such distinguished speakers and the presence of such eminent individuals in our audience show the importance of the topic we are dealing with at today’s event.
The multidimensional nature of competitiveness means that it is measured according to many different criteria on various indexes. These indexes are published by international bodies in annual reports that rank countries on the basis of their scores.
The formation and analysis of these indexes is a dynamic process, with changes from year to year. Their use is expected to widen still further in the future. Both because they are an objective way of making comparisons and because foreign investors, who seek the most fertile ground for their activities, rely on them extensively.
The competitiveness of a country is essentially judged by the ability of its businesses to sell successful products and services on international markets. This ability leads to greater wealth production and a better standard of living for citizens. That is precisely why the ongoing improvement of our country’s competitiveness is a top priority for this government. Our aim is to work in the most effective and cost-efficient way we can, so that the Greek people will reap the benefits of Greece’s improved competitiveness as soon as possible. Much of what needs to take place to improve the competitiveness of our economy is clear enough, because the shortcomings are visible.
However, we want to have the consent of citizens, the business world, and all sectors of society. We are listening to all opinions. We are exploiting every fruitful idea. We believe that society has the maturity to support the necessary measures to improve competitiveness. It is a joint effort. Public services, public organisations and local government must – and will – work at lower cost and with greater efficiency to serve citizens. Lack of transparency, bureaucracy, corruption, and obstacles to the establishment of new businesses undermine competitiveness. We know the problems and we are promoting specific measures to deal with them. Infrastructure is being improved and the market is gradually being deregulated. The State is taking responsibility. The Ministry of Finance has already begun to receive investment plans on the basis of the Development Law. As of tomorrow, it will also be possible to submit investment plans to the Ministry of Development. All the law’s ministerial decisions concerning the Ministry of Development will appear on its site tomorrow. We have started, and we have started well. We are making sure that as far as entrepreneurship is concerned, the State is working to support private initiative, which must play the main role.
At the same time, however, if businesses want to succeed, they must increase their level of innovation, hire reliable managers, and invest more in technology and human resources.
The continuous improvement of competitiveness is our principal objective for the future. It is a national priority. With an innovative strategy based on a new, practical way of thinking and by mobilising all the forces of the public and private sector, we will reverse the downward trend of the Greek economy. With visible and fast-appearing benefits that lead to improvements in the daily lives and standards of living of all citizens.”