Every time I travel abroad, I realize the damage that has been done to the country’s image, or what the Anglo-Saxons understand by the term brand. It will take a lot of time and effort to fix this damage. Greece unfortunately remains a toxic destination by the standards of many international investors.
The memories of the financial crisis combined with the uncertainty which continues to cast a heavy shadow on the country’s prospects have not gone away.
What we see as progress, serious international investors see as a joke. It may be normal here for major investment projects to move ahead at a snail’s pace. However, it isn’t for those who compare us to other investment destinations that go beyond just paying lip service with grand ceremonies.
We tend to forget that Greece may be a unique country in terms of natural beauty but the tough global competition for foreign investment is affected by numerous other factors such as tax rates, the level of bureaucracy, and the effectiveness of the judicial system.
Sure, there are aggressive investors out there who are willing to take a risk with Greece, but economic growth will only come about if the country manages to win the trust of those who approach investment with a long-term mind-set.
“Anyone who wants to invest in a foreign country is above all interested in two things: transparency in legislation, justice and investor protection; and predictability,” a senior official with a great deal of international experience from an Asian country said recently. “They hate surprises – it is their No 1 deterrent.”
Uncertainty about whether Greece will remain in the common currency area has faded. It will take criminal mistakes, both at home and outside, for such concerns to reappear. That said, Greece has a deficit in the transparency and predictability departments.
Greek entrepreneurs, however small, are well aware that they spend most of their time trying to predict what the next obstacle will be.