Spiro Latsis

A look at the John S. Latsis Public Benefit Foundation and its role in funding scientific research in Greece

The John S. Latsis Public Benefit Foundation was established by the Latsis family, in order to manage and implement activities which benefit the general public. Its board features several members of this family, including Margarita Latsis, Henrietta Latsis, Marianna Latsis and Spiro Latsis. The foundation, which you can learn more about on this website, provides funding for initiatives based both in Greece and in other countries around the world, with most of its activities focusing on projects related to culture, education, social welfare and scientific research.

Whilst many of these activities are implemented by the foundation, others are organised in collaboration with third parties. In the case of the latter, the board members work in partnership with their chosen organisation, offering not only financial help, but also other types of support, which allow for the best use of the money provided. The Latsis family members involved in this foundation understand that the needs of our society are increasing every day, and so funding must only be granted to initiatives which will have a far-reaching, and extremely positive impact. To this end, they deliberate over proposals very carefully, and employ long-term, strategic planning, which takes the foundation’s priorities and values into consideration.

Each year, the John S. Latsis Public Benefit Foundation helps to fund up to 25 scientific research projects within the fields of Life Sciences, Physical Sciences and Social and Humanities Sciences. It does this via an open call, meaning that any scientific groups operating within the aforementioned fields can apply, provided they adhere to the terms and conditions outlined by the foundation.

With a generous grant of up to €12,000 for each of the projects that it funds, it’s no surprise that the foundation receives hundreds of proposals each year; in 2014, for example, a total of 946 applications were submitted. Of these, 19 were granted funding. The supervisory board which makes these decisions includes Margarita Latsis and Spiro Latsis, as well as a number of programme officers and administrators; this board carefully considers each proposal that it receives, in order to guarantee that funding is given to projects which will have a significantly positive impact on our society.

Spiro Latsis

The John S. Latsis Public Benefit Foundation has been providing grants for year-long research projects since 2008. The purpose of this funding is to advance scientific research in Greece, and to encourage collaborative work between foreign and Greek research foundations and universities. In its first year, the board funded 10 projects, three of which related to Physical and Engineering Sciences, with the remaining seven related to Social Sciences and Humanities. The following year, it funded 15 projects, and in 2010, it funded 21. In 2011, 2012 and 2013, it funded 17, 18 and 19 projects, respectively.

Last year, the board chose to finance seven scientific projects within the field of Social Sciences and Humanities. Considering the impact that the global economic crisis has had on our society in general, and in particular, on the Greek economy, it’s little wonder that two of these seven projects related to this financial crisis. The first of these projects was run by Martha Bouziouri, and focused on how the economic downturn had affected the social fabric of Athens. The socio-economic consequences of the recession have revealed new methods of collaboration, participation and coexistence, and in doing so have changed our ideas regarding self-organisation and solidarity; the goal of this study was to qualitatively and quantitatively reveal, characterise, track and interpret these changes, taking into consideration issues such as welfare cuts and economic hardship.

The second of these projects focused on fiscal consolidation policies in Greece. The team who carried out this research included Evgenia Vella and Evi Pappa, both of whom work at the European University Institute. Following the economic crisis of recent years, policy making has concentrated primarily on implementing extensive, long-term plans for fiscal consolidation; these include making cuts in government spending, and increasing taxation.

This research project examined the various types of fiscal consolidation policies that can exist within an economy which is known to contain an underground sector. With this in mind, the researchers used a model called DSGE (Dynamic Stochastic General Equilibrium), which focuses on involuntary unemployment, with legal services and commodities production that are intentionally hidden from public authorities, in order to avoid payment of social security contributions and taxes. Using this framework, the researchers investigated the unemployment and output effects of expenditure-based versus taxed-based fiscal adjustments.

The decision to take Greece’s underground economy into consideration when examining the country’s fiscal consolidation polices is a new concept; this study is the first to have ever done this. Fiscal policy and unemployment are two topics which are extremely relevant in Greece at the moment, and as such it was a logical choice on the part of the foundation board members to select this project for funding. However, the John S. Latsis Public Benefit Foundation does aim to finance research covering a wide variety of subject areas, and in addition to funding projects carried out in, and related to Greece, it also finances many studies related to international issues. This is an approach which the board will continue to adhere to under the management of its leader Spiro Latsis.