Greek regional governor: Local economies need leverage to ‘breathe’

Theodoros Karypidis. []

A new development fund launched in northern Greece aims to boost SMEs’ role in the local economy and simultaneously ensure transparency in financial management, the governor of the Western Macedonia region told EURACTIV Greece.

Theodoros Karypidis is governor of Western Macedonia, which recently established its own “Development Fund” aiming to correct market failures and boost the local economy. Its main objective is to create leverage on a local level, by improving businesses’ access to finance, encouraging investment and increasing the competitiveness of local businesses in Western Macedonia.

Karypidis spoke with Nikos Lampropoulos.

You are the first Greek region which is taking advantage of the use of financial instruments to enhance the local economy. What was the driving force behind this initiative?

In these crucial times, it is mandatory to roll up our sleeves and do our best. Western Macedonia is innovating in a number of sectors with a focus on citizens, quality of life, growth and entrepreneurship. Our goal is to move forwards and achieve more through hard work and unity.

Europe has been making use of such financial tools for a long time so we thought that through the creation of this fund, which will boost the local economy and give access to capital, we will actively support growth. Hopefully, others will also follow our lead and exploit the specialised knowledge of Western Macedonia in investment policy-making.

Did you receive any support in the design and implementation of the project? Which were the most important steps and what difficulties did you meet along the way? How was your collaboration with the Hellenic Fund for Entrepreneurship and Development?

From the very beginning, our proposal was warmly welcomed as Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, Vice President Giannis Dragasakis, Minister of Environment and Energy Giorgos Stathakis, the economic team and the Bank of Greece all embraced it without hesitation, showing confidence in our initiative to establish the fund.

There was also excellent cooperation with the Hellenic Fund for Entrepreneurship and Development and its president, Mr Galiatsos, in all the critical stages of the establishment.

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How did the local community react to the announcement of the project? What did you do to convince local actors to cooperate?

The local community’s response was quite positive, as the idea for the fund originated from the community and local actors. It was first presented at the conference “Restarting the Entrepreneurship” of Western Macedonia in February 2016, which was organised by the Chamber of Trade and Industry of Kozani. The essence of financial tools like Western Macedonia’s Fund for Development is to derive from the community and address the community’s needs through effective planning and transparency in management.

What are your expectations from the project? To what extent are small and medium sized companies in your region going to practically benefit from it?

The aim the fund is to improve and enhance the access of businesses to funding, to encourage investments and improve the competitiveness of local businesses. The fund will also provide guarantees with alternative advantageous conditions to the benefit of businesses for loans, advance payment guarantees, and conditional debt settlements. To put it simply, it will give a breath of fresh air to local SMEs aiming at leverage.

What is your opinion on the use of financial tools for the implementation of development and infrastructure projects?

It is truly a question of taking advantage of all the available resources with absolute transparency and it is, therefore, crucial to seek financial tools aimed at the implementation of development infrastructure. As long as they are worthy and focus on the prosperity of people and not numbers.

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