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“Free the Greek market,” Nobel Laureate Sir Christopher Pissarides says in Eleftherios Venizelos Chair lecture at DEREE

Athens, Greece, April 30, 2015– “Free Greece’s entrepreneurial spirit,” Nobel Laureate Sir Christopher Pissarides told the audience during his Eleftherios Venizelos Chair Lecture entitled “Socially-Sustainable Economic Growth” at DEREE – The American College of Greece April 28.

Prodded by a teeming audience at DEREE’s John S Bailey Library Upper Level to comment on the Greek economic situation, Sir Christopher Pissarides, winner of the Nobel Prize for Economics in 2010, said that Greece should “work as fast as possible towards a market-driven economy,” while he called for innovation to be nurtured.

When asked by the audience, he warned against raising the minimum age as it would “hurt the very people it aims to help.” An expert in the economics of labor markets in particular and Regius Professor of Economics at the London School of Economics, Sir Christopher Pissarides maintained that the ideal minimum wage is around 50 per cent of the median salary for inclusive employment – under that is an indication of monopolies keeping salaries low, while over that threshold hinders job creation, he claimed.

In response to questions regarding what steps Greece should take to overcome the economic crisis, he advised “free the enterprise environment, free the entrepreneurial spirit of Greeks. Go to every major center of the world, and you will find Greeks, including ship-owners outside Greece – bring them back…No doubt we need to be more market driven, remove restrictions, and also learn from the Dutch and the Danes regarding pensions…Greeks are very highly educated… “

Sir Christopher Pissarides, whose lecture focused on the ideal policies for inclusive growth in an economy, where all members of a society benefit, examined global examples – Spain, Italy, the UK, Germany, Sweden, and the US – tracing their economic growth.

He noted that growth can improve a society’s condition, but “also create conflict if it is not inclusive,” adding that the main “benefit from growth is the increase in employment.”

“The best socialist policy you can follow is to create entrepreneurship and encourage competition so that people are not exploited by monopolies, and so that there is sustainable growth that everyone benefits from,” Sir Christopher Pissarides said, while also urging governments to put “a safety net in place for those excluded from the benefits of growth, but advised that “businesses should be allowed to run their businesses.”

Sir Christopher Pissarides added that in order to remove barriers to inclusive growth, innovation should be encouraged, especially by improving education, notably funding for higher education and making institutions more independent in order to boost innovation. He called for more information regarding new job opportunities, while noting the scope for an increase in business services, especially financial services, in southern Europe. The noted Cypriot-British economist – who will receive the Kiel Institute’s 2015 Global Economy Prize on June 21 – also urged the European Commission not to encourage re-industrialization, noting that the way forward is through innovation and services instead.

Opening the lecture, Dr Katerina Thomas, Dean of DEREE’s Frances Rich School of Fine and Performing Arts, which organizes the annual Eleftherios Venizelos Chair Lecture, described the historic importance of the Chair Lecture, while Dr Annie Triantafillou, Dean ad interim of DEREE’s School of Business, introduced Sir Christopher Pissarides, calling him an authority on labor markets, especially on unemployment, whom DEREE is honored to have deliver the eighth Eleftherios Venizelos Chair Lecture. “His lecture tonight is not just relevant as economies struggle to cope with unemployment and poverty, but also pertinent to economic policy in a interdependent, globalized economy,” Dr Triantafillou noted.

Faculty, staff, students, journalists, business people, and members of the academic community as well as the Dutch Ambassador to Greece, His Excellency Jan Versteeg, attended the lecture.

Sir Christopher Pissarides

Sir Christopher Pissarides is the Regius Professor of Economics at the London School of Economics, Professor of European Studies at the University of Cyprus and Chairman of the Council of National Economy of the Republic of Cyprus. He specializes in the economics of labor markets, macroeconomic policy, economic growth and structural change. He was awarded the 2010 Nobel Prize in Economics, jointly with Dale Mortensen of Northwestern University and Peter Diamond of MIT, for his work in the economics of markets with frictions. Prior to that, in 2005, he was the first economist outside the United States to win (jointly with Dale Mortensen) the IZA Prize in Labor Economics.

He has written extensively in professional journals, magazines and the press and his book Equilibrium Unemployment Theory is an influential reference in the economics of unemployment that has been translated into many languages. He is frequently quoted in the press on issues concerning the Eurozone and the future of European integration and is an elected Fellow of the Econometric Society, the British Academy, the Academy of Athens, the Academia Europaea and several other learned societies, while he is a Lifetime Honorary Member of the American Economic Association. In 2011, he served as the President of the European Economic Association, and the same year received the Grand Cross of the Republic of Cyprus, the highest honor of the Republic. He was knighted in 2013.

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