The Greek economy is based -mainly- on the production of products and services of low and medium added value, a fact which led the country to fall into the ‘middle-income trap’. Thus, its economy does not create a significant number of highly skilled jobs. A fact which, for many years, has not only led to the successive crises after 2010 but also contributed to the migration of a significant part of its specialised human resources (brain drain). In fact, as a recent study on Greek PhD holders showed, they mainly emigrate to countries that are pioneers in innovation and indeed most choose to settle in the global cities and work mainly in universities and research centres.
The current government, despite the rhetoric of attracting investment from tech giants to the country, follows a policy of “low road” to development (‘cheap development’: low labour costs, low tax rates for businesses, limited protection of the natural and manmade environment and cultural heritage, etc.). It believes that this is how the much-desired development will occur through the automation of a market free from excessive regulations and therefore that major structural changes to Greece’s development model are not required. It does not understand the importance of human resources as a determining factor in improving the economic and social conditions of the country or its position in the international division of labour. Thus, it limits the number of graduates and, in general with its policy (e.g. underfunding, understaffing, university police and the new legislation that it introduced on universities) in practice it undermines the orderly functioning of universities. In addition, it does not understand the importance of the university as a driver of economic and social development, in the sense that it produces the country’s specialised scientific personnel and most of its research activity, which together are decisive conditions for the course of a developed country. It is a policy that does not limit the outflow of specialised scientific personnel, rather it increases it. This lack of understanding is not limited to university education. Quite reasonably, within its own development parameters of a predominantly low-value-added economy, with little or no role for industry, it is equally indifferent to technical education.
What is needed is a concerted plan for a ‘development leapfrogging’ aimed at the ‘knowledge economy’ while reducing social and regional inequalities. This shift should not be understood as mainly referring to the more advanced services sector but should predominantly include re-industrialisation, reversing the premature de-industrialisation that the country suffered decades ago.
For this, the specialised human resources of the country must be made use of and we must improve the institutions that highlight them (e.g. university). This necessary change in both the private and public sectors is what will lead to a model of sustainable and equitable development. At the same time, this policy, in the medium-long term, will curtail the outflow of specialised human resources and will bring back at least a number of them. At the same time of course, policies are also needed that will support this shift in the medium-short term. That is, policies to strengthen R&D, innovation and re-industrialisation which in turn will support the country’s specialised human resources and will bring back some of those who are abroad.
* Report synopsis by Lois Labrianidis, Economic Geographer, Professor University of Macedonia, former Secretary General for Private Investments, Ministry of Economy & Development
[Τhe report in Greek]