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Posted on: 15/Dec/2009

Greece’s ‘tremendous potential’
by Elaine Green

Lavrentiadis says Greece should exploit green energy opportunities.

BUSINESSMAN Lavrentis Lavrentiadis says Greece can take advantage of its strengths and maximise the business opportunities that the global credit crisis has created.

Lavrentiadis’ upbeat assessment was part of his presentation during a panel discussion exploring the role of infrastructure projects in Greece at the 20th annual conference on the Greek economy, organised by the American Hellenic Chamber of Commerce.

“The world today is a very different place to that of 15 months ago - we have been through a crisis that nobody could ever have imagined,” Lavrentiadis said, comparing the financial upheaval to those before and after the two world wars.

Greece is faced with some short-term problems as regards its fiscal problems, he said. Greece is under pressure from the European Union to rein in its deficit of 12.7 percent of GDP this year. Government proposals to reduce the deficit to 9.1 percent have come under fire for containing insufficient cost-saving measures .

Quick rebound

“While the impact of the global credit crisis on powerful Balkan and eastern European neighbours has put them back 10 years - this is not the case in Greece,” he said, noting the country is well placed to rebound quickly.

“Greece can have a competitive edge in the way it deals with coming out of the crisis,” Lavrentiadis said. “It has many advantages. Greece lies at the crossroads of Europe, Asia and Africa. It is also the first Mediterranean port of call for China and India - which are rapidly developing economies. In my view we have to take advantage of our strategic and unique location.”

Long known for its prowess in the shipping sector, Greece can be a hub for transportation of goods. “We have to fully exploit our ports, such as with the demand for importing raw materials from and to the Middle East and Russia. We are also fortunate enough to have very friendly relations with the Middle East,” he added, suggesting this is yet another competitive advantage for the country.

Greece today has stability and can play an important geopolitical role as an energy hub, Lavrentiadis said. It is the number one territory between Europe and Asia. It is worth noting that although Greece is in a recession, the cost of fuel and other raw materials has maintained high prices, he added, implying that this as another profitable opportunity awaiting.

There are numerous other sectors where Greece has an edge, he posited. “In the health sector we can play a leading role in the Balkans - already patients flock from the Balkans and come to northern Greece for its superior healthcare,” he said, adding that there is scope to harness this strength.

Cultural advantage

Lavrentiadis, recently awarded an honorary chair of the American Community School for services to education and the arts, pointed out that Greece has lagged behind in educational reform, “but, on the other hand, we have the cultural advantage of our thousands of years of history we can capitalise on.

“We need flexibility in managing our existing infrastructures. There has been too much negativity about our country - we need a positive, not pessimistic attitude about our future in order to move forward and take up the competitive challenge.

“Greeks have tremendous potential - some outstanding individuals have shown we can work miracles abroad - we also have the best merchant fleet in world. We must capitalise on these advantages in order to get ahead of the game,” he added.



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