Despite the unforeseen and major disruption that marked 2020, the year ended with a hopeful message: science and technology can provide answers to most of our concerns. Holding on to this lesson, we welcomed this year with optimism and a sense of certainty that we can – to a large extent – reframe our future.
With the arrival of the vaccine and the prospect of a return to normalcy within our reach, the next big challenge will be recovering from the global recession caused by the pandemic. On its way back to sustainable growth, the Greek economy is currently faced with three interconnected challenges:
- The reforms launched in recent years, with an emphasis on taxation, education, the justice system, and the further digitization of the public administration, must be carried on and completed.
- We need to analyze, comprehend and manage the drastic changes brought about by the disruption of the global economy that has taken place in recent years, driven by globalization, the digital technology revolution, demographic developments and climate change. The technology sector is growing at a much faster rate than the rest of the economy, attracting the lion's share of investment and creating more new jobs, while, at the same time, breaking down the boundaries between the sectors of the economy. Armed with digital technology, and the ability it provides to monitor and adapt to the ever-changing desires and expectations of consumers, start-ups are disrupting and redefining business.
- If we are to achieve high and sustainable growth rates within this environment of rapid technological transformation, we must accept that innovation and digital technology are critical priorities. In this context, the legacy of 2020 includes two extremely positive developments: the speed of the digital transformation of the state – under the pressure of the pandemic – and the significant number of foreign direct investments in technology.
As we have all seen, COVID-19 changed – literally within a few weeks – attitudes and perceptions that until yesterday were taken for granted, setting in motion, or even accelerating, three trends that are expected to greatly influence future developments:
- A stronger focus on climate change and sustainable growth – a trend already reflected in the European Union Recovery Fund's emphasis on sustainability and the circular economy. For our country – which lags far behind in this area but, at the same time, has set extremely ambitious goals for the coming years – the opportunities arising are obvious.
- Accelerating the pace of adoption of digital technology and its penetration into traditional sectors of the economy. The coronavirus experience has drastically changed the relationship of businesses, employees and consumers with technology, fueling the rapid growth of e-commerce, also creating new areas of business activity which are expected to intensify with the introduction of 5G networks.
- A withdrawal of the forces of globalization. The pandemic has raised awareness among citizens and businesses alike, about the need to build more flexible and resilient supply chains, while many governments are focused on reducing their economies' dependence on remote or politically unstable third countries. While it is not clear how these plans will be implemented in practice, we must expect supply chains to move to countries at the borders of the European continent. The opportunities created by this development for our country, in terms of attracting investment, are considerable.
It is clear that Greece will not be able to meet these challenges if it continues to rely on the growth model it followed in recent decades. Today, we need a new, inclusive and outward-looking growth model, which emphasizes on attracting greenfield investments, integrating digital technology, transitioning to the circular economy, and utilizing the most valuable asset we have at our disposal: our human capital. Innovation should lie at the center of this new growth model, as it brings together the upgrade of the human capital’s skills, with the new technologies, as well as with the new forms of clean energy.
Our country has lived for decades largely cut off from the global ecosystem. It has failed to produce internationally marketable products and services, and we had come to believe that global trends and developments did not concern or affect us. In recent years, we have all seen where this misconception has led us to.
Leaving behind the illusions of the past, we can reframe our future, laying the foundations for strong and sustainable growth – for the next day of our country and beyond. To do that, however, we need to comprehend the opportunities presented before us and capitalize on them with a concrete plan, perseverance, creativity, and consistency.