The cement and asphalt streets lined with graffiti throughout downtown Athens contrast sharply with the elegant marble columns hidden among the ancient ruins of a proud Greek civilization. A city rooted in the past shows little signs of modernization, and mobs of young people loitering idly in the center of the city at all hours of the day and night reflect a country faced with high unemployment and huge budget deficits.
Imagine a country where nearly one-third of the workforce is employed by the government. You can understand why the common theme presented by all of the business executives we met during our trip to Greece was that most of these “untouchables” who cannot be fired are overpaid, highly unproductive and cause a drain on the economy. They also contribute to a major bureaucracy that keeps decision-making a very slow process and adds to the complexity of conducting business.
Typical of most governments facing financial woes, the Greek government introduced an austerity program in 2010 to freeze worker salary increases, reduce the size of government and privatize many government services. As you would expect, the initiatives are causing worker unrest and occasional strikes around the city. So far, there is little evidence that the E.U. bailout funds provided to Greece have improved the economy, and it will be interesting to see how things progress as Greece and the rest of the world continue to dig out from the global recession.
International Business Visits
- Sightseeing tours of Athens and the Acropolis
- The National Archaeological Museum
- Ancient Corinth and the Corinth Canal