Policy --- Greece & Public Administration
Around the time of the financial crisis, I was concerned that Greece and its leadership did not appreciate the magnitude of the forthcoming shock or how to respond to it.
Having taught the course on Managing Corporate Turnarounds, I was all too aware of the risks that Greece was facing – and, thankfully, averted. There was also deep-rooted suspicion between Greece’s creditors and the Greek political establishment, and poor communication channels within Greece. So, working with LBS colleagues Richard Portes and Elias Papaioannou, and LSE’s Dimitris Vayanos, we organized a series of off-the-record, invitation-only meetings at LBS, where we hosted senior Greek politicians of all parties, leaders from the central bank, banks and industry, and Greece’s creditors and other key actors, to help improve communication lines and forge a common understanding.
These meetings were useful at pivotal moments of the crisis, but they also helped to forge a policy agenda. Some resulted in white papers and other reports, even though the proceedings were protected by Chatham House Rules. In addition to this, with the support of Alix Partners and others, I worked with LBS Greek students and alumni to create some very selective events to help improve understanding of the crisis and ways out of it. This helped both the debate, and the engagement of LBS with Greece’s problems.
We then created a template for an ambitious new initiative, tentatively co-funded by SAP, Microsoft and Accenture, to provide a set of competitions in the Greek public administration, so as to reward public-sector employees for innovation while empowering the then-beleaguered public administration and overcome its own rigidity.
I worked with the then-Minister of Administrative Redesign (and current Prime Minister) Kyriakos Mitsotakis, who officially approved this project – even though pressures from the Troika on operational issues meant that it was ultimately not implemented.
I also was engaged in global forums in trying to help rationalize the debate on Greece at a time of crisis. In the 2011/2012 Davos, for instance, working with the Head of Europe for the WEF, I helped structure a session around the “Greek issue”, aimed at bridging the differences of the multiple parties involved.
I continued working on issues relating to Greece’s challenges and spent some time looking at the structural and administrative drivers of the Greek problem. As such, when the definitive volume around the Greek economy was written (edited by Sir Chris Pissarides, Nobel Laureate, Nikos Vettas, Dimitris Vayanos and Dimitris Meghir), I was asked to write the chapter on Public Administration, which led to significant ad hoc research on a little-explored driver of the crisis.
In Greece I have given talks, keynotes and seminars to the Bank of Greece, Athens University of Economics, and ALBA, as well as participating in local forums such as talks of the Economist Conferences in Greece or the Delphi Economic Forum.
Finally, with my LBS colleagues Elias Papaioannou and Giorgos Mylonadis I created a “Global Business Assignment” course for LBS in Athens, where a group of 50 executive MBAs spent a week in Athens, engaging with some of the country’s top executives, but also helping businesses and non-profits on strategic projects. Students could immerse themselves not only in the business landscape, but also the cultural, political, and humanitarian scene, spending a day in underprivileged neighbourhoods with organizations trying to improve the plight of those less fortunate than we are.
Schedule pressures have precluded me from engaging more directly with Greece’s current efforts in rebuilding the country, which will undoubtedly become ever more important in a post-COVID-19 world. However, my relationship with the country remains strong, and I continue to write OpEds and to engage in Greece pro bono.