ECONOMY

Investments abroad boost growth at home

Repatriated profits from the activities of Greek companies abroad are estimated at 2 billion euros annually, or 1.2 percent of Greece’s gross domestic product (GDP). They account for an additional 0.1 to 0.2 percent in annual GDP growth and are an indication of Greece’s recently expanded presence in international markets. Greek enterprises have invested a total of 11.3 billion euros abroad, of which 5 billion was during the period 2000-2005, providing more than 65,000 jobs. This year, the total will be considerably augmented, since the National Bank of Greece and EFG Eurobank, on their own, have invested over 3 billion euros in two Turkish banks. During 2000-2005, Greek investments averaged 0.6 percent of GDP annually and accounted for 3.5 percent of total investments by Greek enterprises. The investments mostly concerned the expansion of enterprises, mostly banks, into other Balkan states. About 70 percent of all Greek investments abroad targeted the Balkans. Last year, the most important investments were the buyout of Serbia’s Jubanka bank by Alpha Bank (162 million euros) and Cosmote’s participation in the capital increase of its Romanian mobile telecoms subsidiary Cosmorom (120 million euros). Among the total investments in the Balkans, 48.8 percent were in the telecommunications sector, 24.8 percent in financial services, 17.6 percent in manufacturing (including refineries), 5.9 percent in commerce and 1.8 percent in construction. It is not only proximity that has attracted Greek enterprises to the Balkans, but also the dynamic growth of their economies. However, this fast growth can also have negative aspects. An EFG Eurobank report points out that it has created imbalances, such as ballooning deficits and indebtedness, which may hurt growth in the long run. The other significant Greek investment destinations are Cyprus and Western Europe but these lag far behind the Balkans. Job losses? Unions claim these investments abroad cost jobs at home, especially as some local manufacturers shift jobs abroad. According to the General Confederation of Greek Labor (GSEE), about 1,150 jobs have been lost in this way since early 2004. The available data show that any job losses have been limited to manufacturing and that the financial services and telecommunications sectors have not been affected. In manufacturing, Greek enterprises active in Southeast Europe employ a total of 16,000 people, including 6,000 in textiles and clothing, 5,000 in metal products and 1,000 in the food industry. It is true that the textile sector has seen hundreds of jobs shift abroad as Greek companies look for countries with lower labor costs, but such moves account only for part of the 11,000 jobs lost in the sector between 1995 and 2005. China and India Recently, Greece has finally begun to pay attention to the huge markets of India and China. In the period 1999-2001, both accounted for just 2.2 percent of Greece’s foreign trade, with China in 16th place among Greece’s trading partners (and a 1.8 percent share of its foreign trade) and India in 38th place, with a 0.4 percent share. By 2004, India had climbed to 25th place, but, as usual with Greece’s trade partners, the balance was not in our favor; in fact, Greece has a trade deficit of $330 million with India. Economic relations with China are more advanced: Direct Greek investment there stood at 72 million euros at the start of 2004 and 140 million in early 2005, according the Hellenic Center for Investment. The best opportunities for investing in China appear to be logistics, telecommunications and the food industry. Recent agreements involve companies active in mining, construction, foods and plastics.