National Productivity Board. 2019. | ISSN: 2654-1289


NPB Annual Report 2019 cover

This first Annual Report of the Greek National Productivity Board for the year 2019 provides a broad and retrospective view of all the important trends, characteristics and aspects of the productivity and competitiveness of the country at the macroeconomic, sectoral and regional levels. It reviews policies that have already been implemented and others in progress which aim at enhancing the productivity and competitiveness of the Greek economy. First, the analysis underlines the significant productivity and competitiveness gaps between the Greek and the other EU economies. It identifies factors of productivity growth, in terms of investment, innovation, skills, enterprise and competition.


By disentangling the main components of aggregate demand over time, we stress that the current recovery mainly rests on the macroeconomic stability achieved through the fiscal consolidation and positive developments in the balance of trade and private consumption. However, investment behaviour remains volatile and several adverse external and domestic factors can threaten macroeconomic stability in the long run. Based on a decomposition approach, it is found that, during the crisis, and compared with the preceding period, decreases in labour utilisation played the most significant role in the reduction of output per capita, followed by smaller —but also significant— reductions in labour productivity growth.


The analysis of the sectoral composition of the Greek economy provides evidence that its overall structure remained largely unchanged during the crisis. By using a shift-share analysis, we show that changes in productivity growth are mainly explained by changes in productivity within sectors, with reallocation effects having a positive contribution before the crisis and a negative contribution during the crisis. Based on a growth accounting framework, the results indicate significant heterogeneity on the effects of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) and non-ICT capital within sectors, and systematic underperformance of total factor productivity (TFP).


During the crisis period, the gap in productivity and TFP between the capital region of Attiki and the other regions of the country increased. Specifically, the TFP reduced in all the regions, although it has recovered somewhat since 2013. The larger reductions in both labour productivity and TFP are observed in the island regions (of Voreio Aigaio, Notio Aigaio and Ionia Nisia). In the same period, the region of Attiki increased its TFP gap with the best-performing EU region. In order to promote regional growth and convergence, the strategic objectives and policies of the sectoral growth plans should be aligned and integrated with the special planning frameworks for main economic activities, established land uses and special planning regulations for realising ‘fast-track’ infrastructure investments. In this way, more locally targeted actions will be taken to enhance productivity and diminish inequalities, avoiding possible conflicts between sectoral and regional policies.


Taking into account that the concept of competitiveness is multifaceted, different approaches are employed in order to illuminate its different aspects. Specifically, Greece exhibits a current account deficit that was significantly reduced during the economic crisis. The country’s price/cost competitiveness, as reflected in the real effective exchange rates, improved from 2010-11 until 2015-16, while the unit labour cost decreased from 2011 until 2016. Exports of both goods and services have been increasing since 2009, but the market share of Greece in the global markets is decreasing.


In terms of the international competitiveness indicators, Greece’s performance presents several problematic areas, such as the quality of institutions, macroeconomic stability, labour market efficiency and finance. Greece’s participation in Global Value Chains (GVCs) increased during 2010-2015, compared to the previous period (2005-2009) and exceeded the Euro Area 19 (EA19) average. Given that one of the country’s main characteristics is the significant difference between the capital region and the remaining regions, regional competitiveness is another important aspect that should be taken into account when competitiveness is measured and competitiveness-enhancing policies are designed. The most important competitiveness gaps between the Greek (mostly, the peripheral) and EU regions concern the areas of macroeconomic stability and labour market efficiency.


Therefore, it can be argued that the existence of negative (during the crisis period) or weak positive (in the mild recovery period that follows) productivity growth rates in the Greek economy, despite the treatment of fiscal deficits and the improvement of the current account balance and cost/price competitiveness, can be largely associated with: persistent structural problems of its production system (which is of low knowledge– and technology-intensity compared to the EA19 average) and its non-price/non-cost competitiveness, such as the stability of the macroeconomic environment, the quality of institutions, financing conditions, and the (in)efficient functioning of labour and product/service markets.


The need for implementing a comprehensive policy framework with both sectoral and regional dimensions is stressed. Such a framework would promote the export-oriented entrepreneurship of the Greek economy, through structural reforms, and emphasise the quality of jobs and human resources to boost the productivity of Greek businesses. An effective demand management policy should rely on international tradeable sectors of the economy: (a) tradeable services, (b) the primary sector and (c) a few industrial sectors that can significantly affect output/employment, given that the manufacturing industry is heavily dependent on imports. Such a framework could involve redistributing government expenditures and increasing the autonomous demand of key sectors, in conjunction with an industrial policy programme.


Finally, as far as horizontal policies are concerned, these should be targeted at increasing Research and Development (R&D) expenditures, supporting innovation and upgrading the role of e-government/digitisation in public administration. They should also improve the market conditions and create high-quality, accessible, resilient, reliable and sustainable infrastructures in network industries (transport, logistics, energy, information and telecommunications), as these can foster Greece’s economic transformation and lead to significant productivity gains.

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