Ομιλία Υφυπουργού παρά τω Προέδρω με θέμα την Επιχειρηματικότητα στα πλαίσια του Global Entrepreneurship Week, 17-19 Νοεμβρίου 2016 (στην αγγλική γλώσσα)
Good afternoon to you all,
I am delighted to join you today in the celebration of the Global Entrepreneurship Week, one of the most dynamic gatherings for stakeholders around the world.
The economy and prosperity depend on many factors, main of which is the ability of entrepreneurs and innovators to develop ideas into viable businesses, incomes, and jobs.
It is actually the Cypriot entrepreneurs who took on the challenge after the economic catastrophe of 1974, who built and grew a new Cypriot economy and the middle class.
It is their ideas that created jobs and prosperity in the post-invasion era, and today is the day that we should thank them. They have proved that also in Cyprus, entrepreneurial minds can be our greatest resource.
Entrepreneurship is a way we take control of our lives. Both individually but also nationally, if we live in a country where true entrepreneurship may flourish. It is a misfortune that true and genuine entrepreneurship has been battered, both in Cyprus and globally, in the years that preceded the crisis by the desire for easy money and risk-free profit, facilitated by flawed policies of easy and unrestricted public and private borrowing, which in turn created bubbles and caused the 2013 crisis.
NOW, we have to get it right. We must turn back to the basics principles of entrepreneurship by using modern tools to produce a new generation of future innovators and real entrepreneurs.
I believe that work begins first and foremost at home, where parents raise their children. Do they induce a culture of entrepreneurship? Or the culture of what became to be the “Cypriot Dream” of public service employment? Do they encourage children to be curious and creative or to be “safe” and “risk averse”?
In the Global Entrepreneurship Index that was published a few days ago, Cyprus did improve by a few places. But the parts of the index where the greatest challenges rest are in “Risk Acceptance” and “Opportunity Perception”. And this is largely cultural.
Schools are also very important in that respect. Our education system must try to expose our students to problem solving conditions and cultivate rational and critical thinkers.
It should encourage children to develop their Technical Skills. It should be able to identify young potential innovators and entrepreneurs early. Technical skills are the building blocks innovation, and it is not enough for us Cypriots to pride for having a high number of university graduates, we need to improve our skills mix. We need more people willing to graduate with technical skills and perhaps less graduates in law, accountancy, or teaching.
It is true that some of the best innovators an entrepreneurs worldwide were often bored in school as they find repetition and memorization uninteresting.
Of course an excellent university system is also essential. Not only because of the specialized education it offers, but because it can create an ecosystem of innovation.
Universities and research centers around the world are known not only for what happens in the classroom, but for the kinds of discoveries that happen in the labs, in their ‘spin-offs’, or the discoveries made in collaboration with the industries they cooperate.
And from the government side, not only we encourage the creation of such a university ecosystem, but we are also trying to equip it with the necessary institutional and legal framework. I am glad that the major universities of the country are taking this challenge very seriously.
So what is our job as a government; Not as important as the work of the entrepreneurs, but, still important. Very important. And it is not just about subsidies and paying public money.
First of all we should be enablers and not inhibiters of entrepreneurship!
Great entrepreneurship and innovation occurs in an environment of economic freedom, with favorable conditions to stimulate investment. With not too much red-tape or over-regulation, with an attractive legal and tax system. Where the rule of law is enforced effectively and consistently, and where intellectual property is protected.
From the government perspective, supporting entrepreneurship and a knowledge based economy means primarily improving all the above.
And this is what we are trying to do. It is not easy but I believe that in many areas are making excellent progress. In others we are still lagging behind.
Next month we will have completed one year in the implementation of the Policy Statement for Entrepreneurship, the first coherent and holistic strategy in Cyprus for the promotion of entrepreneurship. An initiative of the Presidency and the outcome of direct and extensive consultation with all the key stakeholders of the entrepreneurial ecosystem.
It is the direct result of listening to and not just hearing the startup community, young people with an innovative way of thinking that can take the country forward and perhaps they were never heard before by the policy makers.
I will not go through the actions, although that would be a good opportunity to have an account of the very positive progress made by now. The progress report is published on the reform webside of the Presidency.
I will conclude my intervention by stating the obvious. That the government’s efforts are important but are not enough for creating the entrepreneurship ecosystem we want.
The ecosystem needs entrepreneurs coming together, learning from each other’s experiences, building partnerships with each other whenever possible, even recruiting from each other.
And this is why we are here today, and this is why the global entrepreneurship week is important all over the world. I wanted to be here today because Cyprus is on move and it depends mainly on you, the young stakeholders of entrepreneurship.
It requires a lot of effort and mainly a change in culture. It requires an approach to business-led growth and economic policy that sometimes is hard to comprehend by old attitudes that are more familiar with different ways of thinking about central economic planning. And this old attitudes, still inherent in segments of both the public and the private sector is a major ill we jointly have to jointly fight if we want to succeed.
I wish you all a successful Global Entrepreneurship Week, and would like to thank the host for the invitation.