AUSTIN, TX – Angelos Angelou, Founder, CEO, and Chief Strategist of Angelou Economics, an Austin-based company specializing in economic development, has advice for Greece’s leaders about how to fix their struggling economy that boil down to four words: less politics, more business. He gave that advice first in an article in Forbes magazine and then in an interview with The National Herald. Angelou, who holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in economics and is currently pursuing a doctorate in that field, says improving Greece’s competitiveness does not end with bureaucracy and taxes. Infrastructure, he explained in Forbes, “is preventing key industries like tourism and shipping from fulfilling their potential. New tourist hotspots like Berlin offer better roads, airports, and accommodations at affordable prices, while the slow rate of privatization at the Port of Piraeus is limiting the adoption of infrastructural inputs that could transform the port into a regional, multi-modal distribution hub that attracts heavy hitters like Amazon.”
Since Greece is an obvious tourist attraction, why aren’t there more non-Greeks form the United States traveling there? “American tourists are sensitive about their security,” Angelou told TNH. “When they see media images of protests and bombings in Athens, many will decide not to visit. One way of dispelling these fears is to develop 50- to a 100-person tourist packages and promote them through the top 500 Chambers of Commerce in the United States. “Tourism is the largest sector of the Greek economy, accounting for nearly 20% of GDP, and it offers the best opportunity to jumpstart the economy. Greece should invest in year-round tourism campaigns – and not just for the sun and sea assets. Greece is much more than that. It has wonderful resources for ecotourism, and a myriad of cultural and historical assets. The potential of agri-tourism, rural tourism, medical tourism and sports tourism need to be further exploited.” Greece should also target the market of American students who wish to study abroad, he told TNH, “as student visitors have been known to revisit place they’re fond of as adults.” A rebranding of Greek tourism, he continued, “should focus on what makes Greek unique – the famous Greek hospitality, the fantastic nightlife and the unique experiences tourists realize in Greece.” Greece is also an ideal locale for international conferences and corporate events, Angelou says, and so even if there were a one-to-three-year moratorium on violent protests and strikes, that would go a long way toward attracting all of the above.
To the question long on the minds of many Greek-Americans who are quite familiar with Greece: “why do American tourists overwhelmingly favor Mykonos and Santorini?” Angelou explains to TNH: “I think the focus on celebrity tourism contributes to this phenomenon. Perhaps matching different life styles and preferences of tourists can lead to a campaign of “choices.” The freedom to choose from among several hundred inhabited and several thousand uninhabited islands to match individual preferences can be channeled into a powerful campaign with real people, sharing their individual experiences on the Greek islands. Highlighting “real people” stories can bring exposure to what Greece offers beyond Mykonos and Santorini.”
FLAT TAX, BUOYANT TALENT
Angelou advocates for a 15% across the board flat tax on all business, which he describes as an “urgent need” to attract businesses and spur hiring. Any loss of tax revenue in the short run, he says, will be more than made up for by increased revenues from a fortified workforce. Greece is rich in talent, as exemplified by its lucrative shipping industry, Angelou says, pointing to organizations like The Hellenic Initiative (THI), based in New York, and his own International Accelerator, both of which focus on developing non U.S.-citizen entrepreneurs.
REINVESTING IN EDUCATION
A strong university system in Greece will prevent the “brain drain,” Angelou says, and that should come from the private sector, not the government, on which it is currently overly dependent. “Building strong partnerships with the private sector will allow universities to align curriculum and skills development with the needs of the marketplace, increasing the chance of placing talent domestically. In a similar sense, a public-private partnership to fund a massive internship program can help connect high school and university graduates to summer or year-round employment that could feed into long-term private sector employment. Some of the funding of unemployment benefits can be repurposed to support this effort,” he writes. POLITICS NOT AS USUALAsked days before the Sept. 20 election to weigh in on which political party is the best hope for Greece’s future, Angelou told TNH that regardless of which party wins, “only a coalition government comprised of most political parties, can pull the country out of its prolonged recession, no matter which political party wins the election. Only a grand political coalition can save Greece and its fragile economy. Only then, can the political parties engage in accountability and true nation-building efforts, avoiding the destructive tendency of party politics and finger-pointing. “For years the public discourse with every new political party coming to power has been limited and focused almost exclusively to undoing the work of the previous government. This practice should end. Business law should be embedded in the constitution and require a super majority to be changed. Only then can Greece begin to develop a predictable and business-friendly climate to regain investors’ confidence.”
LOSE THE VICTIM MENTALITY
Angelou strongly criticizes Greece’s leaders for perpetuating a victim mentality, and impeding productivity, rather than instilling confidence. “They must lose the victim mentality. Otherwise, no amount of bailout money will get Greece back on track.