As Greece aims to attract entrepreneurs and create high-paying jobs, business owners are expressing frustration with the state’s bureaucratic hurdles just days before a general election. Iphigenia Zachou, a café and bakery owner in Athens, shared her experience of facing extensive paperwork and delays in obtaining licenses and tax rebates.
The cumbersome processes cost her seven months and increased her startup costs. Business owners feel that the state obstructs their efforts and treats them like criminals instead of providing the support needed to open and operate a business.
The Greek economy has faced significant challenges, including a severe recession during the country’s financial crisis. While Greece successfully balanced its budget through austerity measures, it suffered a substantial decline in gross domestic product (GDP) and lost hundreds of thousands of small enterprises and workers to bankruptcy and overseas job markets.
Despite efforts by the ruling New Democracy party to stimulate entrepreneurship and bring back Greece’s lost children, critics argue that the country has not yet achieved a vibrant and sustainable economy beyond real estate growth.
New Democracy has lowered taxes, including business and personal income tax, abolished the solidarity tax, and increased the minimum wage. The government’s fiscal management has allowed Greece to rebalance its budget, experience economic growth above the EU average, and reduce its debt as a percentage of GDP.
However, critics believe that the growth has been driven by second-home buyers and tourists, rather than by entrepreneurs building productive and resilient sectors of the economy. They argue that wealth distribution and job creation across farming, manufacturing, and services need more attention.
While large companies, such as Sunlight and Gastrade, have the means and influence to invest in Greece and wait for political changes, small businesses and self-employed individuals make up 90% of Greek employment.
The government has introduced tax breaks and encouraged mergers and farming cooperatives but struggles to address energy inflation and support farmers facing market shocks and weather challenges. Farmers and small business owners find it difficult to wait for the government to become an enabler rather than an obstacle in their endeavors.
The upcoming general election provides an opportunity for Greek entrepreneurs to push for reforms and change the perception of the state’s role in supporting businesses.
With determination and individual effort, business owners hope to create a more supportive environment that fosters entrepreneurship and economic growth.