Two Greek Perspectives on the Financial Crisis

Panagiotis Farmakis and Ioannis Papoutsas are two businessmen and Greek MBA students from ALBA Graduate Business School in Athens, Greece.  This summer, they are taking MBA courses here at USD as part of an exchange program.  The following are their insights, in their own words, into the Greek financial crisis and the important decisions to be made by EU leaders…

Panagiotis Farmakis, Incoming MBA Exchange Student, Summer 2015


Simple “negotiation thoughts” in a Greek’s mind…

There is no doubt that the Greek financial crisis is one of the main topics on worldwide media. Indeed, Greece faces a very difficult situation regarding its debt management.  Since January, the newly elected government of SYRIZA, has been involved in a continuous negotiation process with the aim to bail out the enormous debt and put an end to the tight fiscal policy that has been taking place since 2009. Consequently, Alexis Tsipras (the new elected prime minister of Greece), had only one plan…the one that he PERCEIVED as the only viable plan for the country. However, it takes two to tango…

Unfortunately, a series of wrong decisions, along with bad judgement of the position of the other E.U. partners (about the management of the Greek debt), led the country to the threshold of bankruptcy.  And there are so many critical questions to ask as the Greek situation unfolds…

1. Does Alexis Tsipras have the capacity to bargain hard with the rest of the E.U. partners?

2. Did he frame well enough the position of the other side?

3. Does he have the legitimacy to “steer” the country on the rocks? (Outside the E.U.)

4. Do the other European members have the will to approve a bail-out (and thus haircuts of their money). Even worse, will they approve a new financial program?

Only time (and the results) will give answers…


Ioannis Papoutsas, Incoming MBA Exchange Student, Summer 2015

10259920_10205419694641111_2421736660437801194_nWhat impressed me a lot during my stay in California is that although Greece is located on the other side of the planet, American people are well informed and aware of the financial situation there. In a few discussions I had, almost by chance, compassion and sympathy were present, even concern about what is going wrong in Greece or what is wrong with the Eurozone. To my understanding, the recent crisis in the US economy in 2008 has sensitized the people, and they feel that the Greek crisis is a similar situation or even connected as a consequence of the same crisis. And I fully share this concern.

In my point of view, big private and governmental debts and extreme leveraging of the economy, as characteristic of the western capitalistic system, has overcome the limits. Countries with huge debt become vulnerable against the international markets. In our specific case, Greece is trapped in a vicious cycle, due to the austerity measures applied in the economy. These austerity measures, imposed by the European authorities, drive to strangle the market and consequently result in even lower income for the government and less sustainable debt.

Greece cannot apply monetary policy, as the US did successfully, to get out of the crisis. This is because the Euro is the common currency in different countries with different interests, or even conflict of interests. Therefore, on one hand, measurements that could help Greece are creating problems for Germany and vice versa. On the other hand, Greece must not get out of Eurozone (Grexit) because this would be a catastrophe for the country, leading to uncontrolled default of the country with unknown consequences, even in the global economy.

This means that in parallel with reforming the Greek economy in order to be more competitive (the Greek governments should work more on this), radical solutions should be applied to reduce the Greek debt (haircut) and revamp the market. We must not forget that similar problems are facing the whole South of Europe, even in countries with strong industrial bases. Therefore, a solution is crucial and of utmost importance to all the western society, not only Greece.

Read more on our exchange students and their experiences!

For more information on exchange programs coordinated by the Ahlers Center, visit our semester exchange website.

The Eurozone & the Greek Crisis: Strategies for Global Innovation & Competitiveness

By Philip Sheridan, MBA student

Due to my interest in strategic planning and innovation management, I participated in the 2015 Munich & Athens study abroad program with the intent to study strategies for global innovation, and how the political, legal and ethical climate can impact a country’s corporate and economic development. Despite the improving economic climate for a number of states within the European Union (EU), the tensions created by the current Greek crisis provided a unique (possibly historical) opportunity to learn first-hand how each country’s respective business and economic environment is impacting the health of the EU.

Munich plaza SU15

Plaza in Munich, Germany

The EU consists of 27 member states (countries), of which Germany is considered Europe’s economic engine, with a longstanding record of high employment and productivity. Kicking off our studies, two lecturers (Dr. Richard Hofmaier, University of Applied Sciences Munich; Alexander Lang, Tu Munchen) described how the main driving forces (~99%) behind Germany’s economy are small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs; up to 500 employees), referred to as the ‘German Mittlestand’ or ‘hidden champions’. Roughly 95% of Mittlestand firms are family-owned businesses, of which >54% have launched an innovation onto the market, contributing almost 52% of Germany’s economic output within the EU (~27% of EU GDP). Dr. Hofmaier and Mr. Lang eluted to how most successful German firms (large or small) try to capture the spirit of these ’hidden champions’ to drive innovation, and integrate knowledge of consumer-demands into their innovation management and product development practices and processes.

BMW Manufacturing World Headquarters

BMW Manufacturing World Headquarters

The innovation practices discussed by Hofmaier and Lang provided a great international context for our course studies in global innovation management, particularly as it relates to ideation, opportunity identification, option development, synthesis and analysis. Together with Dr. Zimmermann, we discussed these topics and relevant case studies used by global organizations trying to establish and sustain innovative cultures. These class discussions and experiential exercises provided great exposure to practices and contextual tools that I can leverage in my strategic planning and business development activities.

Our time in Germany culminated with site visits to the BMW Manufacturing World Headquarters, as well as the Strascheg Center for Entrepreneurship (within the University of Applied Sciences). At BMW, we observed how a large enterprise marries customer-focused development with innovative production methods to maintain their competitive edge and increase manufacturing efficiency.

At the Strascheg Center, we learned how the German government invests resources to establish entrepreneurship programs and seed university business incubators. We had the unique experience to hear from two start-up cofounders as to the resources provided by the center to help them develop and deliver their innovative products to the market.


Winning culinary team relaxing after the Athens Sensations Tour

Following our acclimation to Athens through a program sponsored ‘Athens Sensations Tour’, we started our studies in Greece with an orientation by Dean Nickolaos Travlos from the Athens Laboratory of Business Administration (ALBA). Dean Travlos framed out key financial events that led to Greece’s current economic crisis, which today is characterized by excessive debt (debt to GDP >170%), an over-bearing public sector (>50% public companies), non-competitive government policies (low government efficiency, 56/59), and a significant ‘black economy’ (>30%). As a result, the Greek government faces overwhelming pension obligations, extremely high unemployment (>25%; >50% for youths), a deflated private business sector (low business efficiency index, 53/59), and significant lost tax revenues due to the black economy.

Visit to Apivita, a natural cosmetics company

Of particular interest was a presentation by Prof. Babis Mainemelis (ALBA) who emphasized how Greek businesses could leverage their worldly traditions and heritage to spur innovation and differentiate its products on a global business stage. We visited Apivita, a family-owned company that specializes in using natural organic oils, plant extracts and beehive products to formulate holistic cosmetics. We toured their production facility and botanical gardens, including a hands-on experience as to the beekeeping practices used to maintain their hives for generation and collection of natural product ingredients. We also toured the Papagiannakos Winery and enjoyed a history lecture on wine in Greece by food consultant and sommelier Chrissa Giatra. It was interesting to hear how these two family businesses were leveraging their unique success in Greece to expand within the European market.

Athens ruins flag

Ancient ruins in Athens, Greece

It will be interesting to follow future economic developments within the EU. Will there be a Grexit (Greek exit from the EU)? Could this lead to a contagion where other countries (Ireland, Portugal, Spain, Italy) also exit rather than continue to institute painful austerity measures (such as labor and market reforms). And what global impact could such developments have on international markets and economies?

While we wait to see what the future holds for Greece and the EU, I can say that the immersive nature of the Munich & Athens program provided direct exposure to these contrasting business environments, and cultures as a whole. The team–based course content and exercises fostered collaboration between individuals from various university programs, and together with lectures by international faculty and company site visits, delivered a unique and exceptional professional learning opportunity every student should have the good fortune to experience. Lastly, it was extremely stimulating to learn about these historical cities and their overall place in the world, from an economic as well as cultural perspective. Most important, it was great fun to meet new people, expand my professional network, and establish new friendships.


Read these other blog posts detailing student experiences in Munich & Athens:

Experience Munich and Athens Through the Eyes of a Student

Summer Sojourn to Europe: An Academic Fortnight in Munich & Athens

What Students are Saying About Munich & Athens


Check back soon for more student experiences abroad!  

For more information on Ahlers Center opportunities, visit our study abroad webpage.