‘Orthodox’ and ‘heretical’ entrepreneurship

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In a commentary published in Kathimerini on January 5, my good colleague Pantelis Boukalas expressed surprise at the term “orthodox entrepreneurship,” which was used by now-resigned New Democracy lawmaker Themis Cheimaras to justify his company’s business dealings with the state (a practice forbidden by the Constitution for active MPs).

As we recently learned, between 2019 and 2022 a company owned by the MP representing Fthiotida, in central Greece, illegally signed 270 contracts with municipal authorities and public bodies in his constituency, worth 400,000 euros.

In doing so, Cheimaras became part of the list of deputies who have claimed ignorance of the law (Article 57 of the Constitution) which states that “the duties of Member of Parliament are incompatible with the job or the capacity of owner or partner or shareholder or governor or administrator or member of the board of directors or general manager or a deputy thereof, of an enterprise that… undertakes public works or studies or procurements or the provision of services to the State or concludes with State similar contacts of a development or investment nature… Exercises by concession a public service or a public enterprise or a public utility enterprise.”

Before Cheimaras, we had ND lawmaker Andreas Patsis, who is in fact a lawyer and was booted from the ruling parliamentary group over discrepancies in his provenance of wealth declaration. Further back, there was SYRIZA’s Alekos Flambouraris and Olga Gerovasili who held ministerial positions at the time.

After the most recent scandal was revealed, Cheimaras said that when he was elected MP in 2019, “I did not think that I would have to change anything in relation to my business. I chose to continue on the path of orthodox entrepreneurship.” We can’t know if he really “did not think” what the rules were, but it is true that doing business with the State is the orthodoxy of Greek entrepreneurship. In fact, it is its gospel.

In a way, it makes sense. When the state produces more than half of the country’s GDP, a businessperson would have to be a “heretic” to focus on the private sector of the economy. Especially when the public sector is expanding at the expense of the private sector. I wonder, has anyone ever counted how many new organizations, services, agencies and so forth are established by each government? Even the bureaucratic procedures of the benefits that this government has handed out take tons of paper and stationery that Cheimaras’ company sold to public entities. What sane businessperson would leave the safety of the state to look for private contracts?

Besides, it has long been known that, in Greece, the “national champions” of business do not emerge through competition but by inflating their revenues through state procurements.

Published in eKathimerini.com 18.1.2023