British advice sought on PPPs

The introduction of public-private partnerships (PPPs) in public works for infrastructure and the development of the state’s real estate properties and promoted by the Economy and Finance Ministry through a draft law reveals a deficit in know-how: Neither the state nor the domestic construction companies have the experience required for cooperation in such projects. It is also widely accepted that Greeks must render more efficient and transparent the way they plan, design, auction and construct public works as far as standards of quality and deadlines are concerned. This lack of experience, combined with the need for more transparency, has led the government to call for the UK’s Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) to become more involved in the Greek development of properties and infrastructure. The RICS chairman, Professor Barry Gilbertson, has visited Athens and met with the leadership of the Finance Ministry, high-level officials of the Public Works Ministry and the president of the Olympic Properties company, Christos Hadziemmanouil. The issue of PPPs dominated the agenda of Gilbertson’s meeting with Finance Minister Giorgos Alogoskoufis, Deputy Finance Minister Petros Doukas and the Hellenic Public Real Estate Corporation (KED) president, Giorgos Ksiradakis. According to sources, RICS’s chairman said Greece is a very interesting market which is building the appropriate product for investment. He also explained the services his institute can offer at various stages of organizing jointly funded projects, as it has great know-how about PPPs which has successfully been applied over the last 25 years in Britain as well as in 120 countries over the past five years. The Finance Ministry has showed especial interest in state property development and big public projects. «The way has been paved for a future cooperation between the two sides, particularly on PPPs,» well-informed sources told Kathimerini. «After all, it will not be the first time the Greek state has cooperated with RICS,» they added, referring to the case of former King Constantine’s property claim in the European Court. As things stand, the evaluation of specific projects or properties by RICS garners the required reliability and makes it easier to attract foreign investors. Public Works General-Secretary Giorgos Tryfonidis expressed his wish to visit London soon in order to be informed about how PPPs and privately financed initiatives (PFIs) are planned and designed in Britain, as well as on the role of RICS regarding environmental, land-usage and sustainable-development issues. Gilbertson further stressed the need for the Olympic Properties’ portfolio to be developed as quickly as possible, adding that perhaps more installations have been built than needed or could be afforded by Athens. He exchanged views with Hadziemmanouil about the experience from previous Olympics regarding the post-Games use of infrastructures and was informed about the three government tenders for the Badminton Hall, the Aghios Cosmas Marina and the International Broadcasting Center. Greece can develop into an attractive investment market if it builds products and transparency, said Gilbertson. He remarked that the enlargement of the EU has brought significant changes to the European investment map in the real estate sector, with Central European countries being upgraded, taking advantage of the attractive legal framework after the reforms of the last decade, lower costs and high returns. Turkey also is particularly interesting, despite the currency risk, as well as its political instability. Finally, referring to the European housing market, Gilbertson dismissed fears about any bubble. Demographic and social developments lead to increased demand for better quality houses, while the rise in the average income of European households has increased their borrowing capacity. The combination of the above justifies the price rises, keeping the housing market at normal levels, he said.

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