THE AGREEMENT PROPOSAL “Strategy for Sustainable Development

The variables in entrepreneurship data for the period 2010-2015, clearly show the large impact of the crisis and the austerity policies on trade, and SME entrepreneurship in the Hellenic market. Unfortunately, so far, we are still going through an extremely difficult period which creates an unpredictable environment for traders. Furthermore, this long lasting period, creates a market hardship and obliges us daily to revise the terms of our professional and family life. We feel more and more distrust and suspicion in the market, we see our colleagues to close down their stores and enter unemployment, thus rendering traditional commercial markets obsolete and deserted. Many times we find ourselves in exasperated doubt even for ourselves. We live in anxiety about the future of our families, but also for the future of our friends and collaborators. We witness the Greek society around us, to enter into a permanent state of hopelessness, pessimism and resignation.

However, we maintain our composure, mainly because of the fact that the majority of the Greek middle class, despite the huge losses and sacrifices of 6 years, has endured until today. The answer to why we had withstood our households is that we had family solidarity, collective experience and a connection with the Greek social structure, which makes it part of any solution to the Greek problem. SME merchants and businessmen during the crisis, managed to raise public awareness and not to blackmail sympathy.

The main black spots that marked the Greek market the last 5 years, were and remain as follows: reduction of wages and income, increasing poverty rate, soaring of “red loan” and arrears, contraction of the GDP, over-taxation, Market concentration, close-downs, unemployment, turnover reduction, banking crunch, bank deposits flight, lack of social dialogue and downgrading of the role of market representatives.

The constant pressure on the Greek society reflected in the OECD report, according to which our country has the greatest inequality in the Eurozone. Greece is in the sad first place among the Eurozone economies, while in the second place throughout the EU. In Greece, at the same time, the biggest income fall was recorded in the poorest 10% of the population among all 34 OECD member economies. During the crisis, the Greek households keep losing 8%, on average,  of their income per year, while the poverty rate in our country has doubled compared to the pre-crisis levels of 27%. Regarding the average per capital GDP in terms of purchasing power, it stood at 73% of the Community average. Only Attica area 98% of EU GDP and the South Aegean Sea area by 76%, recorded a GDP per capital above 75% of the Community average. The lowest GDP per capital was recorded in Eastern Macedonia and Thrace (52%), Epirus (55%), Thessaly (56%), the Central Macedonia, Western Greece and North Aegean (57%).

The Greek society, over the years, experienced major twists in the habits and lifestyle of its citizens. The living standards changed violently since the great shrinkage of income touched many groups, forming the beginning of new inequalities and new distinctions. Greek citizens came in touch with new forms of poverty, but especially the weakest ones received the greatest pressure. For example, real estate, which in the period of the new regime emerged as a key savings and development tool for the small and medium class, became the trap itself with large charges, all in recent years, for the middle class and the economically weakest.

The Greeks lost at least 1/4 of their total revenues, while taxes increased 7 to 9 times. Although it is expensive to be a Greek in your country, the generation of 300 euro was not created after all, as stated on 14/12/11 to the Board of ESEE, by the troika IMF representative, but instead a new generation of an average monthly salary of 400 euros.

In this context, we are therefore obliged to demand once again by politicians, an apology to the Greek SME entrepreneurship by all five year governments; an apology for the situation in which the market has fallen, an apology for the demonization of SMEs and entrepreneurship, an apology for the continuous over-taxation, an apology for the thousands of close-downs and the thousands of jobs lost. Besides, for those who have conscientious intention, an apology is not shame since it has no financial cost. As SME entrepreneurs we are citizens of our country and we do not wish in any way to turn back to times when the Greek society was divided, nor to operate in conditions of “anti-memorandum” against “memorandum” because we believe that no Greek is in favor of the memoranda and other such trends may represent a “social automation”. However, some politicians must take their share of responsibility and make their self-criticism. To unravel why some people rushed to put us in the adventure of the Memorandum, but also because some rushed in their desperate attempt to get us out. The MoU and the MoA did not bring about the crisis, but certainly never brought the solution either since, in the contrary, they worsened the financial situation of the Greek people.  It is noteworthy that the same politicians who would “tear apart” the memoranda every other day, eventually embraced them as “the only solution”.

The SMEs appeal to all political parties to engage with the state and society, to look more to the present and to the future rather than the past, since the risk of bankruptcy means failure for the previous and current Greek Government, isolation for the country, further poverty to society and sudden death of the economy. Our bankruptcy after five years of unequal daily struggle for survival, amidst failed austerity experiments, would be an act of unconditional surrender and national weakness. We should not give anyone this satisfaction.

The recession kickback, induced by the agreement delay, requires special attention, since it leads us to yet another lost year where time is short and hard to turn the economy over the next two quarters of 2015. The majority of Greeks prefer, however, to be on the verge of an agreement, rather on the verge of bankruptcy. The losses of the market and the banking system are already large and not easily replenished, and the restoration of economic aggregates in positive track will be difficult and time consuming. The necessary conditions should be created to improve market confidence, to allow return of deposits in banks, support new loans, increase collectability of debts and possibly pave the way for the third recapitalization of the banking system. Fiscal policy, the financial sector and structural reforms combined with revenue, privatizations and spending are the calculating fields of the total bill of the agreement.

Even a “moderate” agreement to be entitled “Strategy for Sustainable Development” and an expensive bill, with measures of 4-5 billion in the years 2015 to 2016, can not be neither promised nor expected, but it is absolutely necessary for both the market and the economy, as well as the Greek society. We are not naive not to know that the cuts of 1.5% of GDP and about 2.7 billion, affecting all of us, as well as the increase in VAT revenues by 1% of GDP and about 1.8 billion euros, an increase the extraordinary contribution of 30% for incomes over 30,000 euros, the luxury taxes and advertising and other public revenues, will be paid again by all of us.
What is certain however is that we know well that a final agreement will both heal many open wounds, and will also give us the right to avoid financial disaster and even hope through hard work for something better in the future.

Hopefully only a few days are left until we reach at last an agreement with our EU partners and creditors. The final agreement, it is certain that will allow the Greek market, being free of Grexit fear, to work and the economy to function as a “spring”, the remaining months of 2015. Personally I remain optimistic.

Interview of ESEE & PCCI President Mr Vassilis Korkidis
to the Japanese News Agency Bureau Chief reporter, Ms Shoko UEDA of “KYODO NEWS”