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‘It’s no coincidence so many businesses leave Greece’

By Xenia Kounalaki

Ernst Prost first came to Greece 30 years ago on a motorbike and toured much of the country. Then, fifteen years ago, the self-made founder of German lubricants company Liqui Moly decided to invest in agricultural equipment and parts importer and distributor S&M. It was then that the German businessman began to understand the obstacles foreign investors face in Greece.

“Greece is a pioneer in red tape, in raising obstacles and being hostile toward enterprises. There are other countries that welcome investors with open arms, but the exact opposite is the case here,” Prost said.

“Whether one is seeking recourse to justice to recoup payments, or searching for plots in the land registry, or looking to finalize contracts of any kind -- say invest in a company, sell something or create jobs -- the state raises obstacles at every step,” he explained.

While Development Minister Anna Diamantopoulou is scheduled to meet German government officials and industrialists in Berlin this week, with a view to attracting investment to Greece, even local businesspeople are opting to move abroad.

In a recent interview with Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, the head of German industrialists, Hans-Peter Keitel, said he was favorably disposed toward German investment in Greece but urged Greek businesspeople themselves to stop transferring their money abroad and invest it in their own country.

“It’s no coincidence that so many businesses leave Greece,” said Prost. “It’s because the situation is beginning to get on their nerves. And it’s not that they are leaving only because there no market, but because the entire policy and economic structure is inhospitable. It is also often undemocratic. This country is held hostage by politicians, corruption and an elite clique that exploits the people.

“Businesspeople must be left to operate freely, within a certain framework, laws and controls... If the required climate is not created, not one new business will be set up.

“Greece must rely on its own strengths, seek the intelligence, entrepreneurship and creativity that is in every Greek. I have so many Greek businesspeople friends throughout the world. It’s only here in Greece that these skills cannot be developed because the state, the laws, the administration, the bureaucracy and corruption strangle the good merchant, the good skillful manual worker and the excellent laborer.

“Greece must now rebuild its economy in such a way as to become independent and not need any money from outside to survive. But for this to happen, it will take the consensus of politics, the economy and trade unions. Germany found itself in a similar crisis in 2008. They all sat around the table, the unions accepted pay cuts, the employers guaranteed jobs and the politicians went ahead with structural reforms aimed at creating or preserving jobs. Unemployment is now Greece’s scourge,” Prost concluded.

ekathimerini.com , Monday March 19, 2012 (22:57)  
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