Wednesday, January 2, 2013

A toast to Despina Tomadaki & Co.!

A reader who comments under the name of ‘Canutely King’ wrote to me the following: 

"This is the sort of thing that drives me to despair. The waste management 'idea' didn't originate from McKinsey's or the TGFR in 2011/12. Instead it came from an employee of the Greek Ministry of Finance (nee Economy) around 2008, or even earlier. Of course, similar projects have been done long before that in other countries but for Greece, Ms. Tomadaki's paper is the earliest I've seen.

Ms. Tomadaki presented another paper regarding the conduct of R&D in Greece to the 8th international Conference on Technology Policy and Innovation at Lodz, Poland in 2005. At that time she was working in the Laboratory of Industrial & Energy Economics, Department of Chemical Engineering, National Technical University of Athens. I found an EIB loan to a Greek Pharma firm a couple of months ago. The purpose of the loan was --- R&D of course.

I get the feeling that whilst everyone is talking about what needs to be done, Despina Tomadaki is out there making it happen.

But will Despina Tomadaki get any public credit? Unlikely, unless you feel so inclined”. 

What had happened and who is Despina Tomadaki?

The Ekathimerini recently reported that the first waste management tender is expected to see conclusion next month via a private-public-partnership (PPP) and with financing from the EIB. The casual reader might think that this is one favorable outcome of ‘wise men and women of foreign descent’ who presently advise Greece, be they from consulting firms or from the EU Task Force (TFGR). Greeks on their own could never come up with such a brilliant idea.

Or could they? Canutely King discovered that this ‘brilliant idea’ was first presented by the Public Private Partnerships Unit in the Greek Ministry of Economy over 5 years ago. And the author was --- Despina Tomadaki (who now works for the EIB).

One criticism of management consultants is that 'they look at your watch to tell you what time it is'. There is a lot of objective truth to that. Every consultant that I ever worked with confirmed to me that the bulk of ideas which they bring to customers orginally comes from employees of those customers. The resources and potential for improvement are always there. They just need to be taken advantage of.

So, here is to the many Despina Tomadaki's in Greek society who could and would contribute a lot to Greece's turn-around --- if they were only asked and recognized. Someone ought to start looking for the Despina Tomadaki's!


  1. More about waste management and another name: Boroume!
    The one who started with it is: Xenia Papastavrou.
    A year ago I asked her for a banknumber, to donate money, because I cannot send waste from supermarkets here to Greece.
    She told me that she was waiting for an official agreement from the government to be allowed to have a banknumber and publish it on the website.
    She would inform me when it was there.
    I am still waiting.

    There are 3 videos on her own YouTube channel
    next to the website:

    While searching for her name I found her YT channel:

    One video in it is a German documentary (short) from ARD:
    Το ΜΠΟΡΟΥΜΕ στo πρώτο κανάλι της Γερμανίας ARD
    There are more names in it. More initiatives.
    But it needs a German TV group to film, to broadcast it.

    Question 1:
    I search for a photo about Despina Tomadaki, cannot find one.
    If somebody has photos of people who create(d) a success-story, please send it to me. I want to make more videos.
    Published today:
    2013 ~ The year of the Greek Task Force

    Photos, and links to videos, with names and faces of people with a positive story can be sent to:

    Question 2:
    I have a huge heavy box here filled with wonderful clothes for children. Almost new, some are new. It will be sent to Greece, to a private address, to distribute it there among the people who need it.
    There will be more people from abroad who would like to send quality nice second hand clothes to Greece. Who has an official address for it?
    I can create also a video for that.

    If one of you has more ideas for more videos: please, let me know!

    1. Thank you for the very interesting information about Boroume!

  2. Yes, congratulations to Despina Tomadaki - and I see that though she is unrecognised here, the EIB had the wit to poach her!

    This post really makes me happy because I know many greeks like her!! But as for wider application the most ambitious (and ergo, transformative) projects go to waste here without the "right" connections. Clearly Ms. Tomadaki's paper escaped the notice of her department head because - I am sorry to say - he/she could find no way to make money from it or gain promotion on the back of it. ie it escaped unscathed!!

    Still, great things happen at the local level:

    In the late 80s I got tired of hearing that GR would always be behind the rest of the world because we didn't have an industrial revolution. How self-defeating & visionless. We had industry (before, lots of it) - at what point of density does industry become 'revolution'? Maybe we didn't need "revolution', since our older entrepreneurs had imported equipment as needed and set up back in 1991 I started lecturing that Greece, having being spared the ravages of wide-spread industrial revolution, was BLESSED by being able to bypass environmental damage & social displacement, and skip immediately to clean, well-designed, environmentally sound, post-industrial revolution.

    Imagine how thrilled I was in 1996 to see that the port of Mytilini was doing just that, skipping straight from pouring sewage into the sea - a 19th c reality - to setting up the newest ecological system, a 21st c reality, that compacted & treated waste for re-use and poured grey water into the harbour. This won the top environmental EU award in 2000!

    (Antoinette Janssen - go to Mytilini port sewage system.)

    And all over GR there have been people & municipalities doing similar things, either collectively at a local level or individually - such as BOROUME above. Out of their own pocket or local funding. For example, near Veria is the most inspiring library system I've ever come across, involving all the local villages and more or less providing a joyful education at the highest level. All due to the brains, conviction & enthusiasm of one man, a trained librarian. Does the greek press or government take heed? Promote? Take pride? Pah! Just one big spread in the good old Athens News.

    (Antoinette Jansen - please go to the Athens News website and library.)

    There is TONS of talent and knowledge here, but it rarely is "politically connected", or independent of a chain of misuse & then burial, since those who snitch the ideas rarely have the conviction to convince others. Moreover, those in power at the ministries - I conclude - don't give a damn about any of these initiatives, despite lip service. Since so many of these initiatives do need official support for wider application, they remain isolated examples.

    Conclusion: at every level, the biggest problem in GR has always been the government! And the great successes spring (as they should) from the private sector.

    ps. A. Janssen, for the children's clothes contact the Greek Orthodox church, Agios Dimitrios Athens. Alternately, contact St. Paul's Anglican church, Filhellinon st, Athens. St. Paul's has a website.

    1. @Tsigantes - Ms Tomadaki was head of the Public Private Partnerships Unit in the Greek Ministry of Economy, so it would have been the Secretary & Minister who failed to recognise her talents.

      In 2008 she presented her PPP paper to the Asian Development Bank! She joined the EIB in 2010.

      So not only did she lack recognition in Athens, it looks like her talents may have been recognised in Tokyo some years before she was 'discovered' by Luxembourg!

      She is also known in UNDP & WB circles.

      Another good news story is Pharmathen Hellenic.


  3. Ladies and gentlemen of this august blog:

    I have a dark suspicion: Ms Tomadaki was not poached, she was pushed towards the EIB by her political masters. She was obviously a κουτόφραγκος (Silly westerner but the translation does not give the flavour of the original) and she was causing political headaches. This is how the system protects itself. Troublesome ones that cannot simply be ignored are pushed outside the country.
    However it answers the question posed by Herr Kastner in our discussion on the Sunday, December 23, 2012 blog entry. I think that the entry plus the comments describe perfectly the intractable political problem of corrupt,inefficient countries. The question is:how do you change such a country fast and reliably? Well, for the Greek case the answer is as follows: Greek environmental(or other) minister is installed in office. The same day phone rings. It's Ch. A. Merkel's cleaning lady. There is no discussion: Ms Tomadaki(or equivalent from Task Force) is on her way to your office. She will read your mail, listen your phone calls etc If she asks you to jump you ask how high. Otherwise there shall be a banking panic during your watch. Phone closes. Brutal, tricky (requires very good intelligence to locate Ms Tomadakises),insulting and requires the ability to cause highly controllable financial trouble. The last part makes the recipe EU specific, but no less effective. But it forces change at the appropriate point: the leadership of the corrupt/inept. The rest is easier. This is the way to get fast, reliable change in parts of single currency blocks (ie not Argentina).

  4. Ms Tomadaki was not an insignificant minion in the Ministry of Economy and Finance. She was head of the Special Secretariat for Public Private Partnerships. I have a feeling she was recruited into that position in 2006.

    If I wanted to get rid of a trouble maker, I wouldn't push her into a bank where she could influence decisions regarding the conditions and auditing of loans that I was seeking from the bank. I would push her out of harms way - like into the World Bank or back into academia.

    If I wanted to put a Greek in the EIB to shepherd through loans to fund projects for Greek growth, then Ms Tomadaki is exactly the sort of person I'd choose for the job.

    My suspicion is that she wasn't poached by EIB, or pushed out of the way by the Greek Powers That Be (GPTB). First she was fed up with other people reading her mail, listening to her calls, pirating her work etc; so she got a job where she could deliver the Goods for Greece. Second, Tomadaki joined the EIB in March 2010 - two months before the Greek excrement hit the fan - she probably saw it coming, and got herself out of harm's way.

    I assume she had influence on EIB's backing of the Waste Management PPP projects.

    Ms Tomadaki's time at the Ministry of Economy and Finance overlapped with the period when the Karamanlis and Papandreou government's were negotiating the Cosco deal (2008-2010). I am not claiming any causal link - but maybe the then leaders were beginning to see the light. Sadly the light was on the front of a train rushing toward them, rather than the daylight at the end of the tunnel.

    Here is the Tomadaki ADBI Presentation she gave in 2008. Waste Management is just one item among many. Perhaps an enterprising Greek High School student could do a project to see if other Ms Tomadaki's suggestions have or are coming into fruition.

    And here is another Despina (Amarantidou) working on bring Prosperity to Greece ARTION Brings WACS Congress To Greek Capital

    Further to discussion of Dec 23. Why is it that Greece failed to spend all the EU Structural Funds on offer prior to 2010.

    Many seem to think that the GPTB are criminals, so how is it that they failed to find a way to transfer all that lovely loot into their Zug & Jersey bank accounts.

    Maybe because of the strict conditions and audits the EU imposes - although that's hard to believe, given the EUC's record on Auditing. Or maybe because the GPTB are not very clever - I'm more inclined to go along with the latter.


    1. We more or less agree. When I say pushed I don't mean direct pressure.It usually works the way you describe. Nothing unites like a common enemy and the suddenly united wage a relentless campaign of frustration, until somebody is forced to look elsewhere. I will not be surprised if the political bosses congratulated her on the move. However I agree on the timing of the move,it is a bit suspicious. I also agree that somebody clever would have send Ms Tomadakis to EIB. But as you said these guys are not very clever.