The following statement caught my special attention: “Economides envisions the development becoming a microcosm, one that could point the way for the rest of the country, a place where everything works — or at least works as well as anywhere else”.
Well, that’s actually the same idea as behind my concept of Special Economic Zones. The idea behind a SEZ is that, instead of trying to change the whole universe at once (which can’t be done, anyway), you start with “pockets”. Economides has a much better term for it: Microcosm! So I will from now on refer to them as Economic Microcosms (EM).
The beauty of such an EM is that it would be started from scratch. Consequently, everything there could be designed/implemented in such a way that it becomes most attractive for investors and investments (particularly foreign investors and foreign investments). If one weren’t sure how it should be designed/implemented, one would simply ask the potential investors what they would find attractive and one would look around what other (successful) countries do. Presumably, it would be things like: excellent infrastructure; one-stop process to get all approvals for a new business within 30 days; exemption from all unnecessary bureaucracy; exemption from everything else which presently makes Greece an unattractive place to do business; liberalized labor regulations; etc. etc. Particularly foreign investors would also require some form of guarantee for the political risk of Greece (including the risk of a possible Euro-exit). That guarantee would probably have to come from outside Greece (from the EU?).
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe once wrote a short poem titled “America, you’ve got it better”. In essence, he said that it is so much easier to start something from scatch than having to continually improve something which has existed for ages.
Greece right now ranks No. 100 on the “Doing Business 2012” report of the World Bank/IFC. To bring the entire country into the top-10 through normal processes will take decades. A single EM could be brought into the top-10 nearly overnight, possibly even to No. 1.
As I thought about this, it came like an eye-opener to me: why does one not think about combining Ellenkion as a microcosm for near-perfect living and working with a microcosm for near-perfect doing business? There seems to be enough space available for a number of business parks where new (foreign) businesses could establish themselves and where many of the unemployed from the Greater Athens area could find jobs.
And the final beauty of such an EM is that one doesn’t have to convince others (like the rest of the country) to accept the same regulatory and business framework as in the EM. If the EM didn’t work successfully, no one would want to copy it. On the other hand, if it worked very successfully, if there were plenty of new jobs, if there were plenty of happy new employees, etc. — well, then the rest of the country would begin wondering what it is that they do in that EM. And the business framework of the EM would rub off on the rest of the country over the years.
I am certain that the rest of the country would begin copying the EM. It’s hard to change something by mandate but people almost automatically accept change if they can see proof that it will be for the better!