SEV President Mr. Dimitris Daskalopoulos and the President of the U.S.-based Council on Competitiveness, Ms. Deborah Wince-Smith, signed a Memorandum of Understanding on Thursday, 18 September 2008 at the SEV offices, in the presence of the U.S. Ambassador to Greece, Mr. Daniel Speckhard. This agreement is the product of efforts begun last year by the Greek-U.S. Business Council and SEV, aimed at promoting best practices and the adoption in Greece of actions similar to those being carried out in the U.S., with a specific programme on a national and regional level and with the monitoring of specific indicators for assessing the results of the programme. Within the context of its cooperation with the Council on Competitiveness, SEV will undertake initiatives for the transfer of know-how, the organization of technical events, and contacts with persons playing key roles in shaping policies for improving competitiveness.
In his address, Mr. Daskalopoulos referred to the “contribution of modern, economically viable enterprises that produce wealth, create growth and exhibit the social responsibility critical to the exit from the crisis. “These are the companies,” he noted, “that mostly avoided the practices that have led to the crisis. They still suffer –though fortunately to a limited extent– its adverse effects. When the time comes, they will lead the economy away from its present doldrums. So it is precisely these companies that need to overcome the mistakes and hesitations of the past and prepare the sound foundations for the return to a brighter and more promising future. “It is the State’s duty,” the President stressed, “to stand by them in this effort. One possible result of the crisis is the slowdown of globalization and the return to a greater degree of state intervention. To be effective, though, entrepreneurship requires a free field of action with the minimum of bureaucratic and ideological obstacles.
SEV Vice President/ Head of International Affairs and Chairman of the Greek-U.S. Business Council, Dr. Athanase Lavidas, underscored that as the bar of international competitiveness gets higher and higher, the need is growing in Greece for a general mobilization, with specific initiatives and decisive steps aimed at improving our competitiveness ranking. He stressed that current conditions do not allow for delays, procrastination or obtuseness, but call for immediate changes and the implementation of effective measures. The critical pillars are the creation of a favourable business environment; strengthening of entrepreneurship and promotion of many new entrepreneurs; broad use of the new technologies; and a drastic increase in investments in research and innovation. “It is only through cutting-edge knowledge, research, innovation and quality,” Dr. Lavidas concluded, “that we will be able to improve our competitiveness, make progress, and achieve economic and social recovery”.
Ms. Deborah Wince-Smith referred to the work of the Council on Competitiveness, which –with the assistance corporate CEOs, distinguished university professors and labour leaders– works systematically to confront today’s challenges, including protection of the environment; management of energy reserves; sustainability and growth of businesses, with emphasis on SMEs; and improvement of citizens’ purchasing power. Ms. Wince-Smith also noted that, today, the creation of a dynamic and competitive economy requires the close cooperation of the public and private sectors. Within this framework, US experience in reorganizing and modernizing public services can be used by the Greek state via programs organized by the Council and SEV. In the initial stage, and within the framework of joint actions, provisions would be made for distinguished professors from US universities to come to Greece. She also proposed that the Greek private sector take the initiative to set up a business-investment fund –based on the US model– to support the creation of new businesses and the development of investment plans.
Finally, Ambassador Daniel Speckhard expressed his satisfaction at, and support for, Greek-US cooperation on improving competitiveness indicators, with the aim of achieving a higher level of social prosperity.
The event culminated in the signing of the SEV - US Council on Competitiveness Memorandum of Understanding which was also endorsed by Ambassador Speckhard.