This Guest Blog by Emeritus Professor Klaus Kunzmann proposes a radical approach to Greece’s economic difficulties
By Klaus Kunzmann
Enough gloom and doom
When reading all the gloomy stories about Greece, I have learnt much about banks and financial institutions, about the imperatives of debt reductions, about the growing conflict between the German culture of order and following the law and the different cultural perceptions in Greece, about the cuts, about excessive military spending of the Greek army, about tax evasion of Greek millionaires and cruise ship corporations, about the privileges of the second biggest land owner in Greece, the Greek orthodox church, and the shortcomings of Greece agricultural production. I have read about the unreasonable spending for the Olympic Games 2004, and about many other reasons why Greece is in a poor economic condition and requires solidarity and understanding from its European partners.
Even the US American Nobel price winning economists, Paul Krugmann and Joseph E. Stiglitz, raised their distant voices to urge European partners to be more generous towards the Greeks. However, I do not read articles about innovative regional policies to develop and restructure the Greek economy. So here is a courageous suggestion:
An archipelago strategy
It is obvious. Greece needs a powerful and convincing strategic plan to innovate its economy. Why not developing a strategy to turn the archipelago of Greek islands into a European Silicon Valley?
The archipelago is a wonderful region. Its sun, beauty, food and culture attracts tourists, so why not knowledge workers? In times of a growing digital economy “sticky places” matter. The archipelago could become such a sticky place, like Silicon Valley – but with better food, more culture and without endless boring Californian suburbs.
The European Union could formulate a ten-year programme to create the required conditions for attracting start-ups from all over Europe, the Middle East and beyond Greece. It would offer support for the development of the physical infrastructure (airports and high speed digital networks) and institutional infrastructure (technology parks, work spaces etc.), attractive life spaces for young entrepreneurs, who are tired of Berlin and Amsterdam, and even more so of California.
Housing and venture capital funds would be made available by European and Middle East hedge funds. Greek civil servants would get priority treatment, if they give up their privileged positions in the government. Obviously, all this would have to be done in a way so that the fragile environment of the archipelago is not endangered.
The successful development of Sophia Antipolis on the fringe of Nice could be a kind of a model. The EU would be the generous godfather of this spearheading cohesion initiative, balancing life and work, and earn praise for its visionary power. China, already successfully engaged in the port of Piräus could be asked to co-partner the project..
This project sounds utopian, though probably it is more realistic than expecting the Greek government to be able to pay back ever increasing levels of debt.
“I would suggest to focus this idea onto ONE island within one hour boat range of Athens so there is an urban multiplicative impact – eg Aegina” Frank D’hondt.