By Dr Shai Vyakarnam
About two years ago, I went to Greece as part of an EU conference. It had been a complete waste of time and money and I thought no more of it after my flight home. The conference had been entitled the “human face of entrepreneurship” and I had gone to it because a dear friend of mine thought that we might be able to influence the event.
One example of why the Greek policy makers had “lost it” was demonstrated by the fact that the conference timetable was put back repeatedly in half hour units until a smartly dressed Minister in fashionable sun glasses could come and make his speech on entrepreneurship and its human face! Well the face that he put on was clearly two faced bearing in mind the fiasco that the EU is in now.
The self importance, arrogance and hollow words that I witnessed are captured in the sound bite of the Greek housewife in the link here. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-15586673 The ordinary Greek citizen has paid a heavy price for the incompetence of their policy makers.
A similar nonsense was visible a few years ago when I was at an event in Ireland. One of the Government people made a speech that Ireland would overtake India as a hotbed of technology entrepreneurship. I did point out to him that the Infosys headcount in Bangalore outnumbered the total technology entrepreneurs available to him in Ireland. He was offended for some reason. We know what happened in Ireland recently. In January of this year I had the rare pleasure of driving on empty highways in Spain. And Italy continues to have an Emperor who is playing his fiddle while Rome burns. All these peripheral countries got way more support than their absorption capacity has allowed them to manage, deluded their policy makers and bankers in smart suits.
I believe that the problem is also the result of EU folly or enlargement. Brussels seems keen on growing the list of countries that are part of Europe. Even Turkey is knocking on the door and Israel is part of the tame Eurovision contest! The EU’s vision of enlargement to now include 27 countries and the desire of the poorer European countries to be members of the rich club is playing havoc with any sense of vision and purpose.
The fiasco in the EU should serve as a clear warning to policy makers in other countries and regions about the merits of regional policies.
I can recall when Indian politicians deluded themselves with “India Shining”. Eventually the voters punished them and for that we have to be thankful because people who are thought to be semi-literate made a difference. I fear that the Greek tragedy is that the citizens of Greece may not have the same level of autonomy to punish their politicians. Italians have shown no gumption at all to deal with Berlasconi and his bunga bunga ways.
The mood among a small number of protestors in Wall Street and at the steps of St Pauls Cathedral and elsewhere are thin voices raising alarm bells in the G20 countries that all is not well.
The elite decision makers (UK CEOs for example) have rewarded themselves again at obscene levels while ordinary citizens cannot afford fresh milk (see video link above).
So – what is the answer? There is no silver bullet, but finding a way to absorb the ideas of Prahalad and the fortune at the bottom of the pyramid, being more “bottom-up” and empowering, fewer rules restraining entrepreneurs and more rules restraining the elite must all be steps that need to be considered.
I like it when leaders have a vision and a clear set of values. At present it is hard to see many leaders in the G20 with that. I hope people power helps out as we may well have to rely on the wisdom of the crowds to sort this out.
Tags: bankers, BBC news, big business, business education, cambridge Judge Business School, centre for entrepreneurial learning, CfEL, chief executives, economic meltdown, economic vision, economy, entrepreneurship, EU, european business, European countries, European union, G20, goverment policy, Greece, innovation, policy makers, politicians, St Pauls Cathedral, UK Government, values, vision