This article, written by Μαρία Ακριβού, and featuring the work of Atlas Network partner Center for Liberal Studies (KEFiM) originally appeared on Fortune Greece.
For a country to become a considerable economic power and to influence the political agenda worldwide, it is necessary to invest in the educational standard and the living standard of its citizens. The most important thing, however, is to use the brightest minds to its advantage, so that it can make the right decisions at the right time.
This is exactly what think tanks do in the developed countries, by connecting the production of knowledge and information with citizens and politicians and by having a role to inform, train, persuade and cooperate.
In the last three years, KEFiM has made its presence felt in Greek public discourse by conducting evidence-based research, trying to figure out the causes that led the country to the ten-year economic and political crisis and providing food for thought in order for Greece to avoid making the very same mistakes in the future.
In fact, in the latest study published by KEFiM, reveals that Greeks work 6 months a year to pay their taxes. In 2019 Greeks will have to work 73 days to pay their indirect taxes, 46 days for direct taxes and 61 days for social contributions.
KEFiM, as its President Alexander Skouras highlights in fortunegreece.com, is an independent, non-governmental, non-partisan and non-profit think tank. It envisions Greece as a role-model of economic and social freedom, which allows its citizens to create and pursue their dreams and aspirations.
“In the heart of our work is to increase individual and economic freedoms of Greeks. We believe in tolerance and open society and we consider the free market as the most important tool we have for the elimination of poverty and for the prosperity of every human being,” Mr. Skouras says.
Freedom of Thought, Free Market
It is important to note that KEFiM, which operates as a professional think tank since 2016, has contributed significantly in the promotion of the ideas of liberty in economics, the defense of civil rights and liberties, while putting to rest deeply-rooted myths and prejudices about liberalism and strengthening the liberal movement in our country.
“Today the word liberalism has turned from an insult, as it was used before the crisis of 2008, into the most popular ideological self-identification among the Greeks, especially among young people. We are proud to have an impact in this critical change,” Alexander Skouras points out.
But how each government treats KEFiM? Do they take into consideration its research findings to achieve better results? Mr. Skouras replies that Tax Freedom Day captures in a simple and easy-to-understand way the real burden of the state to the Greek citizens and enterprises. As an example, this year Greeks as a whole work 180 days, from the 1stof January to the 30thof June, in order to pay the state taxes and the social contributions. In fact, this tax burden of almost €78 billion is almost double from the €42 billion the Greek households spent to cover their basic needs, such as housing, clothing, food, and transportation.
“The response both from the Greek people and the political parties in favor of reforms is very positive and this is due to both the credibility of the data we present, and their utility in understanding economic reality and the formulation of sound arguments in public discourse."
He does not rest and commits himself to better results in the near future. After all, as he says, the better the job KEFiM does, the more Greeks are convinced that increasing individual freedom in the economy and society is the better recipe we have as a society, the easier it will be for a reformer politician to implement the right policies, while the more difficult it will be for a demagogue to implement policies with disastrous consequences for society and the economy.
Last spring KEFiM presented the more ambitious project it has undertaken to date, the total reform program “Greece 2021: Agenda for Freedom and Prosperity” which proposes specific, in-depth, and costed policies than can enhance the freedom and prosperity of Greeks and improve the country’s ranking in critical international rankings.
Mr. Skouras points out that in order to stimulate entrepreneurship in our country, we don’t need to reinvent the wheel. “Just a look at the Doing Business Index of the World Bank, to mention only an example of many, is enough to find out in which field we need to focus on. We proposed the obvious: a softer, simpler and more stable tax system, a drastic reduction in bureaucratic burdens, simplification of the regulatory framework for business and labor, accelerate the delivery of justice, linking education with the needs of the economy and society. And, in fact, we propose specific ways to achieve these goals, which you can find in detail on our website."
In his comments for the change of the political scene, he hopes that the new government will deliver the positive reform policies it has been committing itself in the campaigning period. Nevertheless, he clarifies that KEFiM’s job is to highlight not only the possibilities for policies that will enhance the freedom and prosperity of Greeks but also the failures of each government. “KEFiM is a non-partisan, independent think tank and safeguarding this independence is a prerequisite for continuing to contribute to the public life of our country,” he adds.
He points out that the most important thing in the implementation of a reform proposal is, on the one hand, the credibility and ownership of the project and on the other hand the rapid emergence of tangible benefits to the economy, employment and household income.
“Today, more and more Greeks self-identify as liberals. The real challenge for us is to give to this term a valid content, by reinforcing in this way a broader social request which can lead to the positive transformation of our country,” he concludes.
The Next Steps of KEFiM
The second phase of the project “Greece 2021” has already begun and it concerns the highlighting of the liberal ideas that inspired the Struggle for Independence and the expression of these ideas both during the struggle and in the first steps of free Greece.
At the same time, the project for the Regulatory Quality Index is underway and it regards an initiative to contribute substantially to addressing structural problems in the legislative process in our country, such as irrelevant amendments.
Our research projects are continuing unabated, while training projects and plans for judicial activism are in our future actions in order to defend individual rights and freedoms.