There is a battle raging within the government regarding privatizations, as ruling SYRIZA appears split on the issue of property concessions, while many cabinet members prefer to remain quiet on the issue, including Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras.
In his recent visit to Davos aimed at attracting foreign investors to Greece, Tsipras avoided making even the slightest of references to the major privatizations that were taking place at the time in Athens: the signing of the contract for the concession of 14 regional airports and the acceptance of Cosco’s bid for a majority stake in Piraeus Port Authority (OLP).
The prime minister’s attitude doubtlessly allows for the heightening of tensions within the government, and cabinet members including Shipping Minister Theodoros Dritsas and Infrastructure Minister Christos Spirtzis are leading the battle against the privatizations. Officials such as the aforementioned ministers have made things very difficult for the management of the state sell-off fund (TAIPED) that is trying to complete those projects.
It is certain that without the contribution of the Shipping and Infrastructure ministries, the completion of the transactions involving the regional airports and OLP will be further delayed.
There are specific conditions required for the transactions to be completed as agreed between the state and the investors. For instance, the completion of the OLP transaction requires the creation of a port regulating authority. Not only has the Shipping Ministry failed to create it, but it has not even decided on its form. Dritsas is said to prefer the creation of separate authorities for each port, which experts say would allow for more hirings. TAIPED would rather see a single authority for all ports, which would be more flexible and follow a coherent policy.
The public services of Piraeus port should have been transferred to a watchdog in 1999, when OLP was transformed into a company. This necessity became even more pressing when OLP was listed on the Athens stock market. However, its public services remain under Piraeus Port Authority.