Thessaloniki, 23 February 2008
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I should like to thank you for your invitation to speak at today’s event, organized by the Association of Greek Commercial and Industrial Chambers, the Hellenic Standardisation Organisation and the Association of Mechanical and Electrical Engineers of Northern Greece, and for the opportunity you have given me to speak of the business opportunities created by the Operational Programme ‘Competitiveness’ of the Ministry of Development.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Quality-oriented competition is a characteristic feature of the environment in which Greek businesses – and more generally Greek industry and the Greek economy –are called on to operate within the Economic and Monetary Union. As a country we need to realize that Greece can never win the competition battle by relying on the production of cheap goods. It is fortunate that we now enjoy a standard of living and a socio-economic level which will not permit our economic growth and our competitive advantage to rely solely on low-skilled, low-cost labour.
The battle Greece must win is the battle of quality. The objectives for which we must fight are the high-quality, differentiated products, the specialized and demanding markets, the high-income consumers.
Greek products and Greek businesses must pursue the path of quality – quality which is properly organized and certified. For the Greek economy the completion and consolidation of the National Quality System and the development of a culture of quality and good quality practices in our businesses and public administration are a fundamental development priority if we are to foster quality-based competitiveness.
In many markets today quality is no longer a competitive advantage; it is an absolutely vital prerequisite for a business wishing to enter into and survive in a demanding market. Businesses operating in the European Union and producing low or medium technological intensity products without the advantage of low labour costs are subject to fierce competitive pressure from less developed countries, making their prospects extremely precarious.
There are too many Greek businesses which find themselves in this position, trapped in a situation where on the one hand their products are comparatively more expensive than similar products from low-cost producers, but without this disadvantage being balanced by their quality features, while on the other hand their products are inferior to those of higher-quality producers, but without this disadvantage being offset by lower prices. For these businesses the reorientation from price competition to quality competition is an absolute strategic necessity.
The notion of quality embraces every facet of business and economic activity. From the design and manufacture of goods and services (both public and private) to the overall management of businesses.
Higher quality allows a business to set higher prices – without the risk of losing its market share.
The objectives of our policy on quality, in the context of the strategy for a more competitive Greece, can be summarized as follows:
- Convergence of our quality infrastructure with that of our European Union partners
- Improvement of the competitiveness of Greek businesses by upgrading the quality of products and services and by adopting quality management systems.
- Enhancing the reliability of Greek products and services on highly demanding global markets.
- Avoiding unfair competition in the domestic market from low-quality products
- Protecting consumer health and safety from dangerous products.
- Protecting the environment by adopting environmental management systems and by promoting environmentally friendly products and technologies.
The quality policy objectives are being promoted by the following means:
- Strengthening the National Quality System (Standardization, Accreditation, Certification, Metrology etc.) to provide the necessary infrastructure and appropriate environment for implementation of a quality policy.
- Provision of incentives to businesses to adopt quality standards and techniques.
- Encouraging demand for quality products and services by educating and raising the awareness of users and consumers.
- Operating a reliable system for monitoring and supervising the market.
The quality dimension plays a significant role in the framework of the Operational Programme ‘Competitiveness’.
Specifically, the OP ‘Competitiveness’ contains actions on:
- The interpretation and transposition of European and international standards, European regulations and other standardization material for inclusion in our own standardization system.
- The upgrading of the infrastructure of the existing laboratories providing quality services in the government and public sector. This action covers no fewer than 46 quality service laboratories, with a total budget of 11.4m Euro.
- Strengthening the National Accreditation Council, to make it an independent, flexible and effective agency.
- The preparation of new quality management tools and techniques, carrying out the necessary studies in areas of special interest to the national economy.
- Ongoing awareness-raising, information and promotion of the benefits of the National Quality System.
- Strengthening measures to certify SMEs. Specifically, around 3000 SMEs will be receiving support under the ‘Get Certified’ programme, with a budget of 45m Euro.
- Market supervision and control, through the ‘Preparation of an integrated action plan for market supervision’ – a project to be implemented in the new Programming Period in the context of the OP ‘Competitiveness II’.
The OP ‘Competitiveness’ also features an Action involving the Definition of Reliability and Performance of Energy Equipment and Energy Products, funding 11 investment projects (8 solar and 3 construction products) with a total budget of 0.52m Euro.
Over the period 2007-2013 issues of quality will continue to figure among the key objectives of the new programme – the Operational Programme ‘Competitiveness and Entrepreneurship’.
Specifically, Priority Axis 2, ‘Strengthening Entrepreneurship and Outward Orientation’ will seek to promote more outward-looking attitudes in businesses, as the only route forward by which the country can produce superior products and services with high added value, quality, environmental sensitivity, incorporating high levels of knowledge and innovation. The Axis will pursue the goal, inter alia, of a general upgrading of the quality of all products and services in all sectors of the Greek economy covered by the Programme, through actions to support individual businesses.
Furthermore, the main objectives of Priority Axis 3, ‘Improvement of the Business Environment’, will include:
- Strengthening the infrastructures which support quality entrepreneurship, create economies of scale and purpose, foster cooperation with public or other knowledge generation agencies and mediate in the transfer and propagation of innovation.
- Upgrading of mechanisms to oversee the market, stimulate competition, improve the quality of Greek products and services, and reinforce and protect the rights of the consumer.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
We are already taking great strides forward and – with your help – the pace of progress can be more rapid still. Because competitiveness, development and quality are all interrelated concepts – all of them vital to the strengthening of our national economy.
We look forward, then, to your positive response to the task on which we are engaged, to your contribution to dynamic economic growth matched by respect for human values and quality of life.
I thank you for your attention.