Ambassador Jenny Bloomfield used the platform of a major investment forum organised by the International Herald Tribune to proclaim the need for stronger engagement between Greece and Australia on trade relations.
The forum – which took place in Athens on October 15 and 16 – was attended by leading analysts, advisors to the Greek government and political leaders – including Prime Minister Antonis Samaras and PASOK president and former Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos.
Ms Bloomfield’s speech entitled Developing stronger links to the Greek diaspora: The role of Hellenism abroad in today’s Greek crisis invited Greece to harness the entrepreneurial skills of Greeks living outside Greece, had been nation-builders in their adopted countries – none more so than Australia. The Ambassador told the conference that Australia’s migrants had “contributed to building one of the world’s most open economies, and one of the most open and fair societies,” and that Greek Australians were “an asset which can and should be utilised to broaden and deepen bilateral relations and help develop cooperation which promotes productivity, entrepreneurship, innovation and our common prosperity.
“Greeks abroad are an important bridge and a link between Greece and the world, which can help support the country’s efforts for sustainable long-term economic and social development. “Just as the one million Australians who live, work or study abroad, including 150,000 in Greece, represent Australia in the world, Greeks abroad are Ambassadors for their country,” said the Ambassador.
“The skills, knowledge and experience they gain, the connections they forge, their understanding of different cultures and ways of thinking, can bring substantial economic, educational, cultural, diplomatic and other benefits to their homeland.” Ms Bloomfield added that “in today’s globalised world, the term ‘migration’ takes on new dimensions and new meaning.
“Today, mobility among professionals is a natural trend which impacts positively on the individual, but also on broader society,” she said. “Not the so-called ‘Brain Drain, but ‘Brain Gain'” Ms Bloomfield told the conference that the world’s most successful economies are also the most open economies, and that the Greek crisis offered companies opportunities to restructure and adapt their business models, as well as provide a greater capacity to expand and invest in overseas markets.
Countries with a diaspora presence she said could offer new markets for products, services and two-way investment: “At the same time, businesses of the diaspora can have an important role to play in the effort to secure economic growth. “They know the language, the culture and local conditions. They have personal and professional links and financial, property and business interests in both countries.
They are in a unique position to recognise and take up investment opportunities, utilising their understanding and connections with both countries”. Ms Bloomfield said that trade connections to the diaspora offered important advantages to Greece. “But of themselves, they are not enough,” she added. “The right conditions in the origin country must also be in place, to enable the full potential of this valuable resource of the diaspora to be realised.
“These include an open, stable, well-managed and supervised regulatory framework for business activity and investments, achieved through institutional and structural reforms that free up productive capacity by removing distortions, reduce barriers and bureaucratic limitations, and improve performance through enhanced productivity and competition.”
Ms Bloomfield said that Australia’s experience with structural reforms had underpinned 20 years of continuous growth in the Australian economy, at rates higher than most other developed economies. The Ambassador suggested the Greek government should consider implementing policies which would make it easier for commercial collaboration between the diaspora and the Greek state, including the transfer of pension and taxation rights and the offering of tax incentives.
She also proposed that the government in cooperation with business could help support network building, identify investment opportunities and enable co-funding diaspora investment initiatives. “Exploiting synergies, investing in the valuable resource of the diaspora, is worthwhile,” she said. “I believe that the diaspora has the capacity to make an effective and potentially substantial contribution to the recovery of the Greek economy.”