ECONOMY

Greece woos British investors

Greece’s two top economic ministers yesterday called on British investors to take advantage of business opportunities and invest in Greece. Despite an unfavorable record in attracting foreign investment over the last 10 years, the Greek economy has lately been exhibiting considerable dynamism in investment and growth, Economy and Finance Minister Nikos Christodoulakis told a London conference on investment opportunities in view of the Olympic Games of 2004, hosted by the Confederation of British Industries (CBI) and the UK embassy in Athens. He said Greece now enjoys macroeconomic stability – to be consolidated within the framework of the eurozone – and plays a leading role in the Balkans. In addition, the Olympic Games require a huge amount of infrastructure projects. Development Minister Akis Tsochadzopoulos cited reports by international economic organizations, such as the IMF and the OECD, according to which the prospects for the Greek economy are the best in recent decades, and noting that Greek growth rates have been steadily higher than the European Union average. After the deregulation of the telecommunications and power production sectors earlier this year, the European Union-subsidized Third Community Support Framework (CSF) investment plan for 2001-2006 (the largest development package which Greece has ever managed) and the Olympic Games are two further major factors that promise to make Greece an even more attractive place for investment, Tsochadzopoulos said. The Olympic Games will provide a considerable boost to development in tourism, as they are expected to create significant investment opportunities in the provision of high-quality services and infrastructure. Our aim is to upgrade the quality of services and bring about a differentiation in and enrichment of tourism destinations and products, he said. British Minister of State for Trade and Development, Baroness Symons, said British firms could boost their presence in the preparations for the Games. Christodoulakis said that, together with British counterpart Gordon Brown, he had discussed issues related to the practice of private financing initiatives in utility projects for which Greece will shortly have the legal framework ready. The British have considerable experience in the construction of public works with private financing, he said. Tsochadzopoulos said the energy sector is now the biggest field for investment in Greece. After consolidation of the legal framework, investment in the energy and natural gas fields is projected to reach 10 billion euros in the next eight years. He presented a three-pronged proposal to British businessmen: first, exchanges of entrepreneurial and investment experience; second, an invitation to explore the business opportunities which Greece is offering in dynamic sectors such as high technology, energy, industry, commerce, quality control and the environment; third, collaboration in small and medium-sized new technology firms (SMEs). Tsochadzopoulos signed an agreement with the secretary of state for trade and development for the provision of know-how to SMEs. Christodoulakis was due later yesterday to meet with London Stock Exchange Chairman David Cruickshank, who had earlier discussed possible cooperation with the Athens bourse with Greek counterpart Panagiotis Alexakis. The Greek minister was also to meet the chairman of the Bank of England, Eddie George, and the managing director of HSBC, Stephen Green.