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Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Global Greece - an effort to promote Greek exports

I recently came across the website of a company called Global Greece. When I looked up its address, I was surprised to find that it was located in a suburb of Thessaloniki, quite close to where we live. So yesterday, I knocked on their doors (without appointment) to see if I could talk to someone and learn about what they are doing.

Before I knew it, I was in the office of Babis Filadarlis, the owner (his card lists the titles of MBA, MIEx and DipM and his English is perfect). He had made a career with the official export promotion agency for Northern Greece before he started his own company in 2005. The company's mission is to help Greek businesses to increase exports.

Filadarlis is a consultant who charges consultants' fees for services rendered. Thus, companies which use his services know that it will cost them something from the start (as opposed to the public export promotion agency which is free of charge). And yet, Filadarlis claims that his small office gets more 'demand' from companies than the public export promotion agency.

Filadarlis says his greatest 'enemies' are the public export promotion agency because they think he is meddling in their business. The only thing is that when he organizes seminars (against fees), he gets 20 or more participants and when he organizes trade missions, he gets at least a dozen participants (a much better 'response' than the public export promotion agency). He is presently organizing a trade mission to Jordan. I queried what sort of companies would see a potential in the Jordanian market. He mentioned, among others, furniture makers. Now that surprised me because when we had to furnish our apartment, I got the impression that all furniture in Greece was imported.

Filadarlis says that the public export promotion agency (which he says is quite large) is primarily interested in itself; in its political influence and in its relations with the public sector. Whether or not Greek exports are increased as a result of their activities is of secondary importance to them.

Filadarlis belongs to those Greeks who say that Greece's greatest problem is the public sector. He thinks that total job security should be taken away from public sector employees and they should be made subject to performance criteria. I wished him good luck with that hope...

Another major problem, according to Filadarlis, is that the Greek mentality reinforces a lone-wolf-behavior. Everyone does his own thing; period. There is no pooling of resources in the effort to promote exports. There is no central effort to marshall resources effectively. Examples: every small olive farmer handles his own export promotion (if he does). Or, every tourist village would handle its own marketing without ever thinking of pooling resources with other villages.

I mentioned that McKinsey had published the report Greece Ten Years Ahead about 2 years ago and that it included many recommendations how to increase exports. Not only did Filadarlis know of that report; he pointed to the bookshelf behind his desk where he had the report filed.

Filadarlis showed me a beautiful tool which he has developed - "the export road map". It is a marvellous map-like guide for the most important and valuable sources of information on the internet for every potential exporter. He had sent 2.000 such maps to 56 chambers of commerce in Greece with the suggestion that they should forward them to their members. Only two of them did that.

Did I come away from the meeting with a positive feeling? Yes and no; but probably more like no. Why?

I was very positively surprised that there are Greek companies which consider exports important enough so that they would pay someone a fee to help them increase exports. I was also positively surprised that there would be capable people like Filadarlis who respond to that demand.

However, the hurdles which Filadarlis mentioned are somewhat mindboggling in the sense that they cannot easily be overcome. These hurdles relate to existing structures and to existing mentalities.

A public sector which means well for the public should jump on initiatives like Global Greece and do everything possible to promote them. When a public sector does the opposite, it becomes very difficult to still believe that the public sector means well for the public.

4 comments:

  1. I have known of Global Greece for some time, as one of my former assistants has been working with them and told me about it. I do not know Fidarlis, but from your account I agree with his interpretation of the problems in Greece. Essentially, the Greek solution to historical economic weakness has been to prioritise nationalism and political objectives, as a cohering force for the country. This is partly because there is an older Greek individualist tendency that nobody will co-operate with anyone else.

    The problem with the political solution is that it is incompatible with capitalist development -- and more in line with state-controlled economies. Since Greece has been a part of the western capitalist bloc at least since the civil war, the objectives of all the political parties (including ND) are inimical to economic development. Greece has to change its politicians and mindset about politics, the economy and employment -- else it cannot progress.

    I am fairly confident that nothing will change, and Greece will make very little progress. It will always be dependent on foreign aid and subsidies. It is the fault of the European Union for allowing Greece to join so early (compared with Spain and Portugal) without any serious demands for structural reform. Of course, their reasons too were political and not economic.

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  2. Even in a well developed economy like Switzerland export of cheese posed huge problems during the epoch when it was done by an organization close to the state.

    Once this organization was dissolved and exports done by privately owned trading companies, it suddenly worked again...

    H. Trickler

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  3. An enlightened public service would regard Filadarlis as an asset to be nurtured and develop a cooperative parnership with him, and outsource some of their work to him.

    You have often written that many Greeks migrants have been very successful in their chosen new lands - here are 7 of them Australia’s richest Greeks

    I wonder if people such as these could be good Trade Ambassadors for Greece - I wonder if the Greek govt is tapping into this resource. I've been told by a couple of successful non Greek migrants that their achievements overseas are not always valued at home.

    CK

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  4. I think that greek exporting will continue to grow as greek producers will still continue to deal with many problems in greek market. Greek state should embrace all these efforts with new laws and funding.

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