Monday, January 30, 2012

Interview 23: Ross Higham-“Golf isn’t just a game”

This time in DUBAI PROFILE NEWS (DPN), Ross Higham, a really promising professional golfer is sharing with us the reason why sky is the limit sometimes and the way you have to follow so to succeed in. one of the really interesting interviews which has much to say to all the readers of it.

DPN: Ross you are a young and promising Professional golfer. Tell us what golf means for you.

RH: Golf means everything to me it was my hobby and now it is my job.  I consider myself to be very lucky that I am living my dream.  I enjoy all the aspects of golf.  I love playing and practicing, but I also get great satisfaction from coaching all age groups.  Its good to see the improvement children and adults make after coaching sessions.

DPN: from which area of U.K are you coming from? May you describe your place?

RH: I live in Horsham, West Sussex.  This is in the South east of the United Kingdom.  It is a great place to live, as there are great transport routes into London and other parts of the country these can be accessed by both road and rail, also we are close to Gatwick Airport so it is very convenient for international travel.  Horsham is a very old market town that was mentioned in the Doomsday Book, and features on the Bayeax Tapestry.  It is surrounded by open countryside and the South Downs.

DPN: Charles Rosin, a famous screenwriter stated that “Golf isn’t a game; it’s a choice that one makes with one’s life”. Comment us that.

RH: I believe that this is true.  I have been incredibly fortunate to have a very supportive family who has been behind me 100% through my junior and amateur golfing career.  Being able to take part in golf competitions and representing my county has helped me not only with my golf but to be a confident, articulate individual. It has made me learn to dig deep in difficult situations and to face my fears.

DPN: You are one of the most promising golfers in U.K. Tell us some things about your career up to now.

RH: There are a lot of promising golfers in the UK and I would like to think that I am amongst them, at the start of what I sincerely hope will be a long and accomplished career

DPN: Ross, up to now you got a number of awards, which one was the most important for you up to now?

RH: I would say that all of my trophies are special in there own way, I thoroughly enjoyed representing my county against the elite Spanish team in La Manga as all of my family were there to witness it, and several times since I have been approached by several people who have said that they seen my photograph on the clubhouse wall in La Manga, which is great. However even though I didn’t win it I think that the William Hunt Trilby Tour was a defining moment in me deciding to become a professional golfer.  It came down to a three-hole playoff between me and another young golfer, and it was just unfortunate that on this occasion I lost out.  It was a very close thing and quite honestly it could have gone either way.  Again my family were there my brother was my caddie, and I’m not sure who was more nervous me, or my dad.  On the back of being runner up I was invited to play in the professional competition, a few weeks later and I had the privilege of playing with Phillip Archer and David Howell (European tour players).  They were great and very encouraging and I wasn’t out of my depth playing with these guys.  So this finally made my mind up for me.

DPN: What the future holds for Ross Higham?

RH: The future holds a lot of promise for me.  The sky is the limit, as far as I am concerned as I am willing to put in a lot of hard work, sweat and tears to reach my goals.  I believe that anything is possible if you set your mind to it and are prepared to put in the hard graft that is necessary. 

DPN: How far you do believe that you can reach as a professional golfer?

RH: I would like to think that there are great things in store for me in the future.  I believe that you should always follow your dream and never give up on it.  Robert Rock was proof of that this weekend winning the Abu Dhabi Tournament.  He started out his golfing career as the professional at a golf driving range, and this weekend he beat a host of big names including Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods.
I would love to be in that position in the final day of a big tournament one day in the not too distant future.

DPN: Pro Golfers as yourself are always surrounded from sponsors who support their career. What kind of sponsors are you looking for?

RH: I would like sponsors to help me with my tournament fees and all the costs associated to it such as travel, accommodation, and food, as this can be very expensive. At the moment I am unable to play a full season on the many tours that are run over in the UK as I just don’t have the funding. With the economic climate the way it is over here it is very hard to find any business willing to part with their money. I have many sponsor packages in mind that offer great value to the sponsor and would love the chance to discuss them in more detail with anybody who might be interested.

DPN: Who is the greatest golfer in the history in your opinion and why?

RH: Tiger Woods is in my opinion the greatest golfer we have ever seen when you look at his record and the manner of his victories it really is outstanding. I have been fortunate to see him play live when he was at his best. Having watched him with interest over this weekend apart from the final round I thought it was the best I had seen him swing the club for several years and I think he is working on the right things with his new coach. I think this year could be a big one for him, I really fancy him for the masters.

DPN: Is it easy for a young person who is willing to learn golf? What advise will you give?

RH: I teach a lot of young golfers and I believe it is easier for a young person to take up the game, clubs in the UK are now more welcoming and a lot actively encourage junior golfers and run junior coaching events. My advice to any young child interested in taking up golf would be to get you joined or associated with a club. Here you will have junior organizers and PGA professionals who can guide and develop your game. It will also give you the chance to meet other young golfers who you will compete against. The most important thing is you will learn many skills that you will take into all walks of life you will also make friends for life.

DPN: Are you attending other sports apart from golf? Is there any specific club you do follow?

RH: I am a big football fan, and the team that I have followed since I was 6 years old is Arsenal Football Club. They play exciting football, and although they haven’t won any major trophies in the last few years, I believe that you support your team win or loose.

DPN: One of your plans is to relocate in the United Arab Emirates. Why’s that?

RH: The main reason for me wanting to move to the UAE is for a change of lifestyle and culture. I want to challenge myself in a different country and broaden my development as a Professional Golfer. Also with the economic climate the way it is in the UK it will be very hard for me to achieve the lifestyle I am looking for. I think that UAE offers fantastic opportunities for me, the economic situation the weather/climate, the boom in tourism and the global interest in golf are all good reason. I am a very driven person and always looking outside the box and to me the UAE is the most up and coming market in the world with regards to golf and I want to be a part of it. I currently have 1 year left of my PGA degree programme to complete and will be looking to move over as soon as it’s finished.

DPN: Do you believe that there is future for golf in the Middle East?

RH: Absolutely there is a strong future for golf in the Middle East. That is the reason I am looking to move there. You just have to look at the quality of the courses and facilities to see that. The fact that the European tour holds so many events here and the quality of the players that it attracts shows how good it is.

DPN: How do you define success in life?

RH: Quite simply - health, wealth and happiness. To me waking up everyday knowing what I do makes a difference and helping people achieve their goals is a massive motivator for me.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Interview 22: Jon Truby-Living the Qatari dream

This week in DUBAI PROFILE NEWS (DPN), Jon Truby a talented academic person who is experienced the life in the Middle East, is sharing with us his experiences and dreams.

DPN: Jon you are a really talented academic person living the last year of your life in Qatar. Tell us some things about your profession.

It is a constantly self-improving profession that requires a great deal of enthusiasm.  Gone are the days when old lawyers would ‘retire and teach’.  The law is a cutting-edge field and students must be ready for that, so their professors need to have the skills and motivation to keep up to date.  Teaching is however only part of the job.  A lot of the profession is made up of other University projects, administration, committees, and constantly looking for ways to improve education. 

Perhaps the most crucial part of any academic profession is research, and the law is no different.  At Qatar University College of Law, we have just launched a new journal called the International Review of Law.  It is a fresh new publication for legal discourse from any legal field and from any jurisdiction.  Importantly, it is open-access and bilingual (English and Arabic), to maximize our readership.  We’ve attracted some great names to publish with us and serve on our editorial board, and we’re making every effort to ensure the journal is of the highest quality as its credibility is of extremely high importance to us.

DPN: You live the last years of your life in Doha, Qatar. What does this city means for you? Is the Middle East the place you were thinking before you came?

The city is a centre of opportunity and probably one of the most multicultural cities on the planet.  It is an ever-expanding development that is at its most pivotal point in history.  It is a high quality and interactive place that has met and exceeded my expectations, for I live a very happy and social life here.  I have made some lifelong friends, have got to travel to a great number of places in the Middle East and beyond, and am experiencing new delights each day.

DPN: Before you started teaching in the Qatar University you were in the Newcastle Upon Tyne University in U.K. How much different is the “teaching experience” between the two countries and why? Are there any similarities?

I have adapted my teaching style to the local environment, where the learning style here is in a transitional phase towards self-learning and individual research away from an older style of purely taught-learning.  This is important in any academic institution and the College of Law is putting large efforts and resources into ensuring teaching methods are up-to-date and of international standard, and the University at large is focusing substantially on ensuring there are the research resources to ensure that the University can reach its potential of being a research establishment.  I admire the student’s capabilities to learn law in a foreign language, not an easy feat!  This requires lecturers to slow down and ensure the students are following, and to concentrate on ensuring the fundamental points are understood.  As in the UK, teaching is becoming more interactive and a technology-based, with a heightened focus upon online teaching to compliment the classes. 

I have also needed to research local laws in order to teach it here, namely Qatari business law and Qatari environmental law and regulations.  This has been extremely interesting to compare and enabled me to understand further how laws are designed and operate in Qatar.  Lawyers in the UK are accustomed to having instant access to any law, legal case or policy document detailing how the law is made, and researching here has been more challenging since that information is still in the process of being made publicly available – though there are now concentrated efforts by a number of providers to do so.  There are difficulties in the translation of laws, and the way laws are drafted differs since it is based upon French and Egyptian law rather than English common law.  However this has made the research all the more interesting and I have managed to publish on issues of GCC environmental laws.  One of the subjects is teach and research is the environmental law of Qatar, and it is a very exciting place to do so because of the differing environmental issues here, the understudied nature of the subject, and the possibility of making a real difference by both educating people about environmental concerns, and actually recommending amendments on environmental regulation to policy-makers which can make a real impact in a country in the transitional process of developing its environmental code and with a will to achieve environmental objectives.

DPN: In Doha you are a resident of the Pearl Qatar, which is a quite new development. May you tell us some things about it?

The Pearl is a modern luxury development on reclaimed land and an entirely privately funded island.  Porto Arabia is both a residential and commercial area, with numerous high-range fashion outlets like Armani; a small number of grocery shops such as Spinney’s and franchised restaurants including the likes of Gordon Ramsay’s.  Viva Bahriya is the ‘second island’ which is more residential and still largely under construction.  It all has a very modern and amenable atmosphere that makes it popular with expats who can enjoy having a gym, swimming pool, spa and often private beach in their own apartment complex.  The location within Qatar is fantastic as it is close to many of the hotels, restaurants and West Bay.  It is conveniently close to the University, allowing me to get to work within ten minutes’ drive.  It is the best place I have found to live and enjoy to wake up with a coffee and a sea view, plus the West Bay skyline in the background at night is quite spectacular.  The Pearl is becoming steadily more popular but is still not attracting enough customers to its shops or restaurants which seem to be loss-leading and now even more so after recently making news in the Wall Street journal after a local licensing issue; this must be worrying for investors.  The Pearl though retains a very upmarket whilst comfortable feel to it and is a must see for any visitor to Qatar.

DPN: Qatar is about to host one of the greatest worldwide events, the Football World Cup in 2022. How successful you do believe it will be?

The official line is ‘expect amazing’, and I have no doubt that it will be.  Once Qatar puts its mind to something, it can achieve anything, and this is going to be one seriously glitzy 5-star World Cup.  Just imagine an entire country being built for a football event that will be Qatar’s crowning glory, the final jewel in a string of big successes.  The entire nation is under construction and a $25bn metro system is being constructed to reduce the traffic and dependence on driving before it starts.  As an environmental lawyer I am very excited to see how Qatar meets its innovative and high-tech intentions of achieving a carbon-neutral World Cup.  Hosting the World Cup in the winter months would be a much better experience for the fans and enable them to enjoy Qatar, with all of the outdoor arenas available to visit that they simply could not in the summer.  I cannot see it being too much trouble for FIFA to organize with ten years to go, and would save English footballers from playing in the snow in the winter!  We all hope the organizers learn from the past sporting events and ones leading up to 2022, so that it can be the best possible event.  There have been problems reported in the local news from previous events such as the Asia Cup when fans turned up with tickets from Australia and Japan to watch the cup final, only to be turned away because the organizers had let spectators in with no tickets which reportedly led to the police turning violent on them.  There also needs to be enough taxis and transport for fans, recently many fans of a major tennis tournament had to wait outside in the heat for hours for a taxi as they are often difficult to come by.  These hiccups cannot happen in 2022 and I am extremely positive that it will be the best sporting event the world has seen.

DPN: One of your hobbies is travelling. May you share with us some of your travel experiences? What is the most unique one for you and why?

I do have a real passion to see the world and have spent a lot of time doing so, backpacking, meeting other travelers and I enjoy seeing the sun set in some of the interesting and often less travelled places in the world.  My last trip was to Iran, which I found to be a particularly hospitable country with tremendous cultural opportunities for travellers.  It has some fabulous sights to see and probably the best Islamic architecture and historic sites such as Persepolis, an excellent public transport system, is very cheap and has very friendly people who enjoy talking to the few tourists who make it.  Of course, there are difficulties for travellers such as the inability to withdraw cash because of international sanctions, unusual and often antiquated hotels and a lacking nightlife, but it is all part of the experience.

If you keep travelling you live experiences you could never imagine and are often difficult to describe how you got into that situation!  A few spring to mind, such as feeling the joy of being the farthest from civilization one could ever imagine on the Allepy Backwaters in Kerala, crossing the border from Rwanda to go to a treehouse night club in DR Congo called ‘Zebra’, swimming beside sharks and giant turtles off Kecil island in Malaysia, gate-crashing a College frat party in Virginia, sleeping in a cave and getting bitten by leeches and giant ants whilst avoiding wild elephants as I trekked and kayaked Aboriginal country of the Malaysian jungle, chartering a light aircraft to and landing in the perfect Zanzibar, seeing the beauty of an active volcano spew into a turquoise crater after a day’s intense climbing in Lombok, and travelling by a UN armed convoy across the Western Tanzanian ‘bandit country’.  I think my most memorable experience would be sitting about 2 meters from an enormous silverback mountain gorilla in its habitat, one of about 700 left in the world, an observing one another and his family for an hour that I’ll never forget, after one of the most exhausting and stimulating journeys of my life across Uganda and through the rainforest.

DPN: Qatar is a country with a big number of expatriates. How interesting is to deal with different people from different nationalities and culture in your daily life?

I love the international atmosphere and find it of continual interest to meet people from the entire world.  There are always things to learn from each other and stories to tell, but it is always interesting how much people have in common!  As well as Western expats, I have made many Middle Eastern friends.  One of my major ambitions here is to learn Arabic so that I can interact and understand the culture more.

DPN: Before you moved in Qatar you lived in Tamil Nadu, South India on a tsunami relief project in a wrecked fishing village where you spent time rebuilding. Share with us your experience there.

Despite the tragic events that preceded it and the emotional difficulty of working in such a place, this was the best time I ever had and completely changed my life.  It was humbling, exhausting and saddening, but I became so engaged with the project and in wanting to help the local families that I loved volunteering there and put my heart and soul into the rebuild.   I had never been to India and moving to this southern state which is much less developed and considerably more traditional than the north, required me to completely forget about ways I had learnt to do things from communicating to eating, and instead embrace how local people did things.  The trauma the villagers had gone through was horrific yet they were determined to recover and retained a proud sense of positivity that was inspirational to all of the volunteers on the project.  I worked as hard as a I could beside local skilled workers, and tried to engage as much as possible in village life.  I made some of the finest friends there I could, both volunteers and locals.  I was happy when one of the local children decided to go to school and my friend and I had a uniform made for him.  After a tough week of working in basic, dirty and extremely hot conditions, the volunteers would take a weekend break to a ‘local’ city or resort (usually meaning an 8-10 cramped and hot bus ride) where we would relax and sight-see.  I will never forget my time there and I think it helped me to see what the world had to offer and realize that I enjoy being an expat and wanted to live more of it!

DPN: If a young fellow would like to come and work in the Middle East what would you advise to?

Search out reputable employers and perhaps make a visit here as the personal touch works much better that emailing in the Gulf.  Focus on why you want to get the job, what you have to offer, and concentrate on what skills you have the will make you suitable for the job.  Be prepared to be adaptable and flexible, things can change here at a moment’s notice and it’s important not to get stressed by that.  Take everything in good humor.  When you get here: respect and try to understand the local culture.  Be a sociable as possible; don’t turn down any invitations especially at the start, as you need to make friends here to enjoy it.  Try to get out and about as much as possible to enjoy your new life!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Interview 21: Giannis Kriaras-Real Estate in the beautiful Crete Island

This time in DUBAI PROFILE NEWS (DPN), Giannis Kriaras the MD of a successful Real Estate company, KTIMATOEMPORIKI, is sharing with us with working and personal experiences and how can someone reach the top through difficult moments.

DPN: Gianni, you are the Managing Director in KTIMATOEMPORIKI COMPANY for the last 18 years. Tell us some things about your company.

GK:  When we founded Ktimatoemporiki in 1994, our mission was to deliver exceptional homes and workplaces at great value for money. Throughout these years, the response has been amazing and the feedback enlightening. Just like the very first day we went into business, our success stems from our clients. An important part of our expertise is in taking into consideration their needs and preferences, and offering the perfect housing solution. Our fanatical devotion to high quality standards and focus on the needs of our clients has paid off tremendously year after year, not just in financial terms, but also in human terms. It may seem old-fashioned, but our BIG reward is still the clients’ satisfaction. In recent years, we have all been witnesses to improvements in our living and working environments. Property is no longer a product, but a whole experience: a living and working experience. After all, our homes and our workplaces actually represent the stages of our lives. Our job, here in Ktimatoemporiki Company, is to make sure that we find our clients a property which is a natural fit at that particular stage of their lives.

DPN: What sacrifices you needed to take in your life up to now to make your company a successful one?

GK: A difficult career does not require more sacrifices than those one allows one’s self. There were times that I used to think that 24 hours in the day were not enough. However, I have come to realize that good time management is the means to successful prioritization of tasks and objectives. I think that with good will and a little luck everything is possible. In general, however, I believe that we ourselves largely make our own luck, so we should never miss those opportunities.

DPN: If a young person would ask you if it would be a good idea to start his career in the real estate sector what would you advice?

GK: Good behavior, that is good manners, treating people well, honesty and integrity, both in one’s business and personal life, will bring its own rewards. Don’t keep score in life. Love what you do. You have to follow those principles in life generally, and if you do you will be a happy and successful person.

DPN: Greece is facing really difficult moments. How do you predict the exit of this crisis?

GK: As well as problems, every crisis also gives birth to opportunities. Professionals can best benefit from those opportunities if they do not simply seek profits, but also improve the quality of the services they provide. From this perspective, therefore, the crisis does not scare me. The crisis simply requires the redefinition of professional objectives and adaptation to the international situation. Here in Greece it needs strategic brand repositioning: we need to convince the world that Greece is not only sun, sea, summertime and islands; it is also creativity, quality, innovation, sociability, taste and pride. We must promote all these fine qualities abroad, alongside our products and services.  In addition, the economic crisis has made Greece an attractive investment destination, as it offers businesspeople numerous investment opportunities stemming from Greece’s strategic geographic location and its competitive advantages. Greece is a natural gateway to the markets of South-Eastern Europe and the Eastern Mediterranean, regions with more than 140 million consumers and a GDP reaching 1 trillion Euros. I am positive that Greece’s economic problems will soon be behind it, leaving it stronger. Greece is a rich country with great natural resources, most significantly 175 billion barrels of oil south of Crete, while the gold value in Thraki and Macedonia reaches 38 billion Euros. And, according to the Geological Institution of USA, the value of Oil and Natural Gas alone reach 10 TRILLION dollars.  In addition, Greece offers a vast wealth of mineral resources. Lignite, which is used for making energy in Greece, and bauxite, the raw material needed for aluminum production, are two minerals that are found abundantly in Greece. Other mineral deposits include ferronickel ores, magnesite, mixed sulfurous ores, ferrochrome ores, kaolin, asbestos, and marble. Mining accounts for only 1% of the GDP.  As the center of neighboring emerging markets, Greece provides access to populations where there is high demand for consumer goods, infrastructure modernization, technology transfer and innovation networks, energy, tourism and light industry. In parallel, Greek companies and banks are well established and play a key role in the markets of neighboring countries. Investors are increasingly discovering that Greece combines features unique in Europe. The country is a premier global tourist destination, is an emerging regional energy center, and has a highly educated and multilingual workforce.

DPN: More specifically how do you see the Real Estate industry in Greece at the moment?

GK:  The Real Estate sector has long been one of the main pillars of the Greek economy. Some people may not be aware that state owned real estate assets are estimated to be valued at 300 billion Euros, largely unexploited until now, which are going to bring new blood to the market. Real estate offers good yields even during the crisis, as the market has fallen just 10% during the last two years of recession, making it the best investment, on average, in terms of return, compared to the stock market and bank deposits. The Olympic infrastructure boosted construction activity during previous years. Now it is time to get the best out of it, while demand for new modern buildings and new projects in urban and rural areas of the country bring new investment opportunities. Building costs are going down because of the decline in investment in construction. Historical data shows that real estate pays better than all other investments in Greece, and the sector has proved quite resilient even during the current crisis. Despite a strong decline in construction activity and transactions, prices were set accordingly. Taking all the above under consideration, I would not say the real estate Industry in Greece is changing. I would say it is evolving.  Even in the current economic climate it is encouraging to see that Greece is a favorite, and it looks likely to stay that way. Even if current economic conditions cast some doubts, the popularity of the country is growing both as a tourism and holiday home destination and for inward investment. As regards the time to invest in Greece, now is definitely the right one. As the economic crisis has not left prices untouched, sale prices of some properties have been reduced, in some cases up to 50%. In all categories there are true bargains to be found and the properties vary from completed apartments and houses to renovation projects as well as villas, businesses, marinas, hotels etc. In addition, Greece offers an attractive Mediterranean climate, endless islands to visit, spectacular nature, a fascinating history, mouth-watering cuisine, and an eclectic urban mix which all combine to create a lifestyle that is unequalled. We have over 300 days of sunshine a year, one of the lowest crime rates in Europe and a choice of cosmopolitan lifestyles.   Our native population has lived through thousands of years of a rich history living in Greece in harmony with many races. Demand for property in Greece is increasing at a rapid rate and typical growth rates of 20% plus per annum in carefully selected locations can be observed.

DPN: I guess that foreigners are interested mainly to do also investments for pleasure in Greece, by buying a property in a Greek island. Which islands are popular and why?

GK: It is true that Greece has proven over the last years to be one of the more popular destinations for Europeans looking for a holiday home, a retirement home or an investment property. More specifically, demand for its beautiful islands is increasing at a rapid rate.  Every island has its own unique beauty and charm. There are Greek islands for every type of character: remote and quiet islands, touristy, party islands, unspoilt islands, romantic and many other types, so everyone can certainly find one to suit them. For example: Santorini for its romantic sunsets, the unique sunken caldera and the still active volcano; Mykonos for its vibrant nightlife, the traditional Cycladic architecture and its long, sandy beaches; Corfu for its Venetian architecture and Rhodes for  its rich medieval history. And of course there is the island of Crete, renowned for its mountainous landscapes, the coast with many beautiful beaches and rocky coves, its beautiful towns and charming villages and harbors, its excellent food and exciting nightlife, ancient sites such as Minoan Knossos, a relic of one of the greatest civilizations ever, and much more.

DPN: From which countries the foreign investors are coming usually from? Are there also Greeks that still are investing in Real Estate?

GK: Our clientele is from all around the world, particularly Europe, the USA and China.  They are not only individuals, but also private and public companies either already established in Greece, or interested in extending their business into the Greek market, due to its perfect location between three continents. It was not by accident that ancient Greeks used to say “Greece is the navel of the world”. As for whether Greeks are still investing in real estate, even though Greece is facing problems, which are of course also affecting the real estate market, it is not that Greeks are not buying at all. Indeed they still buy but are maybe more cautious when it comes to investing their money nowadays. Real estate in Greece remains a fairly sound investment.

DPN: Ed McMahon an American comedian stated that “golf courses sell real estate and that’s why they’re built”. Comment us that.

GK: Golf is not just a game of physical and mental skill, it is a whole lifestyle. The golf property market is well recognized as an important sector of growth for every country and there is fast development in this area, as golfing is fast becoming more and more popular. In Greece golf is fast becoming a popular sport and there are already some very good golf courses available and more in the planning stages. Greek golf courses are excellent during spring, summer and autumn; also the mild winters allow playing all year round. The country where the sun shines 300 days a year makes its way up to the world of golfing.

DPN: Describe us one of your latest projects.

One of our latest projects is “the future”. And by that I mean solar and wind energy parks, which are at the forefront of transformative changes which are attracting investors from around the globe. With Greece emerging as the energy hub of Southeast Europe, deregulation in the production, transmission and distribution of electricity and energy supplies, and an aggressive drive for renewable sources to play a major role in energy supply, the country is at the centre of significant growth opportunities. One of the core components of Greece's energy profile will be solar, or photovoltaic, energy. Greece has a superb sun radiation capacity and it is estimated that one third of Greece's energy requirements could be met with solar power. Experts believe that the market will grow impressively and have a value of more than 4 billion Euros in just a few years. Wind, or aeolic, power is driving growth in the renewable sector as well and represents a huge investment potential in Greece. The superb wind resources in Greece are among the most attractive in Europe, with a profile of more than 8 meters/second and/or 2.500 wind hours in many parts of the country. Capacity increased by an average of 30% annually between 1990 and 2003 and almost 30% of total capacity was installed in the period of 2003-2004. 

DPN: Your company is located in the beautiful island of Crete. Talk to us a bit about your place.

GK: Crete is the largest island of Greece - the fifth largest in the Mediterranean - and is located in the south of the Aegean Sea. Crete is one of the most famous Greek islands and often visited in conjuction with Santorini. Crete is an island with an exquisite 1,000 kilometer-long coastline dotted with numerous coves, bays and peninsulas, which afford a multitude of soft, sandy beaches along the beautifully blue Mediterranean Sea. After all, it's among the finest islands in the world and has been established as one of Europe's most popular holiday destinations. And, of course, the island's historic importance as the home of the Minoan civilization with important archeological finds at Knossos, Phaistos and Gortys, is evidenced by the tens of thousands of visitors to these sites each year. There are many other jewels just waiting to be discovered by the more adventurous explorers of holiday treasures.
If you haven’t visited Crete yet, this summer may be the time to come and discover this fascinating Greek island. If it captures your heart, don’t worry. Come back next year and Crete will welcome you once more with its smiling Cretan sun, the sounds of the Cretan lyre, the scents of orange blossom and jasmine and a slice of cool red watermelon.

DPN: How will you define the real professional person?

GK: Above all, a professional is judged by the final result. Personally, I do not claim anything else, I do not aspire to be anything more. We strive to do our work as well as possible, and hope that the results are positive and perceptible. My definition of success is to do normal things exceptionally well. One is considered professional when the name of one’s company is a synonym for that profession and, naturally, when the name inspires respect, reliability and confidence in the market.

DPN: Describe us your typical working day.

GK: So many things are happening on a daily basis that it becomes very hard to stay on top of it all. A typical working day, though, always starts with an iced coffee. After that I prioritize the tasks to be completed with, of course, appropriate free periods built in to leave some time for other unscheduled tasks that may arise during the course of the day.  Aside from setting priorities, I review the progress of existing projects, and then check the calendar to refresh my memory on the upcoming appointments for the day and the week.   Other than that, my daily schedule is full of meetings with investors from all over the world, lawyers, consultants, and appointments to view newly assigned properties, phone calls, e-mails and the endless list goes on and on. But it all comes down to listening, interacting with people and exchanging ideas. It can all be summed up in one word: communicating. Luckily, because of my work I come into contact with many people from all walks of life. I encounter new ideas; become a better professional and in the end a better person. One does not need to seek profit. From my career I take full advantage of the opportunities that come my way and I try to minimize any disadvantageous circumstances I meet. 

DPN: How do you spend your free time?

GK: Good time management means I have plenty of opportunities for rest and relaxation. In my free time I recharge my batteries and relax. After all, a rested, relaxed person functions better, professionally, methodically and objectively.

DPN: How do you see the future for your company and for you personally?

GK: The truth is that I prefer to think of the present more; however I do have dreams for the future and wishes which I would like to be fulfilled. Above all health is the most important - as trite as this may sound - any other problems can be overcome with effort. Enterprise is good, but we must not lose sight of our personal life. I have personal goals that I want to achieve, for example to travel to every corner of the world. In general I want every day of my life to be as good as it can get, to enjoy every single moment. Carpe diem, as the ancient Romans said.

DPN: What is in your opinion the secret for success?

GK: As the real estate market leader in Crete, and one of the biggest real estate agencies in Greece, we do indeed have a secret ingredient for our thriving business: trust.

DPN: Any wish you could share with our readers for 2012?

GK: I hope to keep the best and forget the worse. This is also my world theory. I believe that the fortunes as well as with the difficulties of life make me a better person. And finally every change in life, good or bad at that specific moment, gives me the opportunity to re-evaluate my own life and take the best out of it. The important thing is that you make the most of the positives and minimize the negatives. This is also my objective for 2012. Above all certainly comes health; the rest will follow. A happy and prosperous new year and a positive balance at the end of 2012!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Interview 20: George Kratsas-Legalizing dreams and high expectations

This time in DUBAI PROFILE NEWS (DPN), George Kratsas a promising young lawyer with a great academic career, is discussing various topics, which for sure will be interesting for all the readers.

DPN: George, during a short period of time in your life you have achieved some remarkable academic records. May you talk to us about your career up to now briefly?

I studied law and specialized in EU and Competition law. In 2008, I undertook a PhD on the subject of financial regulation, which is my new research area. I have taught US and EU law, state aids and drafting contracts. I deeply enjoy teaching and publishing papers in legal journals. Unfortunately, I cannot say the same about attending long legal conferences. To a large extent, my trajectory is something I owe to my previous professors, co-workers and my parents, all of whom have been an amazing source of inspiration for me.

DPN: You have spent the last years of your life among various places. Which places where those and where is finally the home of George Kratsas?

We youngsters today are lucky to grow up in a deeply globalised world where we can spot opportunities arising beyond our country’s borders and traveling is relatively easy. In my case, my interest in European and comparative law led me to study in countries such as the UK, France and Belgium. I embarked on my PhD in the UK whilst I also conducted research in the US as a visiting scholar. Last year, I spent a term working in Qatar as a lecturer and then worked for a Brussels law firm. In other words, where we live is the result of our academic and professional choices. Although many young people understand this today, many still feel inhibited to go abroad. As to the idea of home, Herman Hesse has said, “one never reaches home, but wherever friendly paths intersect the whole world looks like home for a time.”

DPN: Originally you are from Greece. May you share with us some comments about your country’s recent difficult economic situation?

Greece is undergoing the worst form of sovereign debt crisis in the Eurozone as well as suffering from a serious lack of confidence in its ability to overcome it. At the moment, the Eurozone is showing its support by providing it with capital at a low rate. However, more solidarity is needed at a multinational level, and a greater sense of responsibility is required at a national level. More precisely, it is imperative to establish better mechanisms at the EU level to tackle debt crises at an early stage. It is also crucial to further consolidate integration, through the creation of common borrowing mechanisms and central fiscal supervision. In addition, Greece’s Eurozone partners should postpone the latter’s payback. For instance, the UK paid the loans it obtained from the US during the WWII as late as 2006, i.e. 60 years later. Why can’t a similar measure be applied to Greece? Having said that, Greece needs to build up its competitiveness, but for that we need reforms that bite such as: opening up closed industries. In addition, Greece needs to radically tackle chronic failures, one example involving the privatization of public providers to consolidate their basis and reduce waste. The Greek government also needs to be more honest about its inability to remedy certain aspects of the public sector, such as the tax collection mechanism. Private companies could play a role there too. Finally, nowadays Greeks often speak of a needed change in mentalities, for instance, in relation to corruption or tax evasion. In fact, many believe that the shock of the crisis is sufficient to effect such a change in mentalities. This is wrong in my view. Long-established attitudes do not change through internal shocks but, rather, through the influence of external factors, such as external motives or the establishment of a well functioning social system.

DPN: You have had various teaching experiences in different countries. Which one was the most unique one and why?

The most unique experience so far has been teaching in Qatar. I was struck by the country’s rapid expansion and the citizens’ optimism, especially when compared to a stagnant Europe. It was also an unprecedented cultural experience as I had to adjust to a new environment and interact with a culture which is largely unknown in the West. Although Gulf countries still require development and reforms, I feel very privileged to have lived in one of them.

DPN: Why do you think that the English essayist, Charles Lamb once stated that “lawyers I suppose were children once”?

Lamb’s quote, refers to the strictness and apparent seriousness when they interact with lawyers. This, however, is a wider issue about branding law in society. For example, lawyers often appear to live in a bubble. I would wish to see lawyers become more culturally rounded, and more in touch with social issues. Legal education and law firms have a role to play in this. At the same time, I hope to see society become more aware of legal issues and developments. I am not simply talking about knowing laws as such, but rather understanding the inner workings of the law and how these may affect them. To that effect, introducing law in the teaching of other disciplines and inviting non-lawyers to legal conferences could help achieve this aim.

DPN: describe to us a situation in your life that everything went wrong and how did you deal with it

The most recent experience I had where I was under severe strain was during my trip to Iran. Due to the imposition of international sanctions, neither mine, nor my companion’s credit cards worked. Thus, for some time we found ourselves in an unknown region with no acquaintances and no means of paying even for basic needs. Although it was quite stressful, this adventure gave me the opportunity to experience some of the generosity and kind assistance of the Iranian people. The problem was eventually solved and we managed to execute a bank transaction, but I was left with an important lesson: simply being deprived of facilities, does not mean that one needs to reassess what he considers important in life.

DPN: you have travelled up to now to numerous countries. Take us through the most fascinating trip you have done up to now

My trip to Yemen was definitely my most fascinating one. In this country, one can experience the world as it once was and meet people who often don’t have access to technology or modern facilities, completely unaffected by issues prevalent in modern societies. From the point of view of a Westerner, Yemen comes very close to a true Rousseauian experience: it demonstrates how social and technological developments change one’s mentality and attitudes towards life. In essence, it feels like a travel though time.

DPN: You have visited many countries in Middle East. What is your opinion about this part of the world?

The Middle East has been undergoing profound social changes over the past few years, which recently culminated in the Arab revolts. It is very inspiring to witness the assertiveness with which Arab people demand social rights, even at the risk of their own lives. I deeply believe the Middle East and the rest of the world have a lot to benefit from the establishment of working democracies in this region. However, I would like these movements to look beyond the removal of tyrants alone and focus on establishing each country’s future governing principles. As opposed to most westerners, I do not feel threatened by the establishment of Islamic Republics in the Middle East, as long as their governmental structures are open and accountable to their own people and maintain a healthy cooperation with international players.

DPN: Do you have any philosophy in life that you could share with us?

Traveling has taught me that if something is conventional knowledge, it is probably wrong. Academia has made me explore why.

DPN: One of your main interests is politics, how come that?

My interest in current affairs stems from my family environment, where politics was always the main topic of discussion on a daily basis. Another reason is that I am Greek. Greeks are very prone to discussing politics, partly due to our recent turbulent history.

DPN: You once received a scholarship from the ALEXANDROS ONASSIS FOUNDATION. Tell us a few things about the great personality of Aristotle Onassis.

The Alexandros Onassis Foundation was established by Alexander’s father, Aristotle, to honor the memory of his late son. Aristotle Onassis was the biggest shipping tycoon of his time. Reading about his life enables one to learn many lessons about business and life in general. He was an extremely hardworking and cunning individual with unlimited ambition. One aspect of his personality I admire was his ability to deal with all people, regardless of rank or background. It seems Onassis was very self-conscious about his own deficiencies and had an impressive gift for picking talents and delegating. Unfortunately, his life was marked by the death of his son, which he never managed to get over.

DPN: How do you see yourself in 10 years from now?

At the moment, I try not to see any further ahead of the completion date of my doctorate, let alone predict my life in ten years from now. Whatever I do, I wish to continue to make publications and teach but also further my experiences in the developing world.

DPN: George, if you could change 2 things about the world what would those be?

Firstly, I wish to see world leaders address environmental issues more decisively, such as through the establishment of a binding successor to the Kyoto agreement. Secondly, more specifically to the Middle East, I hope the undergoing social and political changes touch upon more social issues, such as those relating to gender issues.  We can only hope the New Year will bring the desired change in both domains.