ECONOMY

ELKE chairman says foreign direct investments going up

Is Greece attracting its fair share of foreign direct investments? Statistics to date paint a pretty grim picture. Inflows of foreign direct investment (FDI) in the first 11 months of 2002 were a paltry 30 million euros, according to Bank of Greece figures released on Monday. Statistics and indicators could be misleading if they are taken out of context or reviewed without taking into account other indices, Stratos Papadimitriou, chairman of the Hellenic Center for Investment (ELKE), said in an interview with Kathimerini English Edition. «What’s the benchmark?» he asked. He said the issue should be looked at from two aspects. «Firstly, how have we done over the years, the trend in other words. And the second is, how do we compare with the rest?» On both counts, Greece does not appear to be doing too badly, based on the UN’s World Investment Report 2002. While FDI worldwide registered a big drop in 2001, the inflow of direct investments into Greece shot up to $1.56 billion from $1 billion, an increase of more than 50 percent. Papadimitriou said an example where the presentation of statistics can create problems is the performance index set out in the report. In the indicator which measures the percentage of a country’s gross domestic product worldwide and FDI worldwide, Greece was ranked 125th, above Japan in 148th spot but below the US in 74th place, while Angola unexpectedly grabbed the third spot. The report also underscored Greece’s underlying attractions. The potential index, which takes into account the national GDP growth rate, the ratio of exports to national output and the ratio of telephone lines to inhabitants, among other items, has Greece in 35th place. «That’s the real issue. Greece has the potential. The question is how to transform this into real attractiveness for foreign investors,» Papadimitriou said. He said part of the problem lies in marketing and that «we need to do a better job marketing our products.» The other half of the equation has to do with implementing structural reforms aiming at reducing cost, effort and time for investors. «It’s a never-ending process,» Papadimitriou said. It’s a process, however, with which he is well acquainted. Prior to his appointment at ELKE, he headed public transport company OASA and oversaw its gradual transformation into a modern organization. «OASA now is very different from that of five years ago.» Papadimitriou said openness, making available all relevant information to investors and setting out the rules clearly are key to tackling charges of corruption and avoiding unfortunate cases like Canadian mining group TVX, which had its base metal operations disrupted following environmental protests. The Internet is a prime tool for making the playing field level for all investors. «We are making all data available over the Internet, for example, information on relevant legislation, steps to getting a license,» Papadimitriou said.