New drive to attract foreign investment

Greece’s high growth rates and its economic role in the broader region of Southeastern Europe are two of the country’s main comparative advantages that make it an attractive destination for foreign investment, Economy Minister Giorgos Alogoskoufis said yesterday. Speaking at an event for the relaunching of the Hellenic Center for Investment (ELKE) as the Invest in Greece Agency, the minister noted that Greece has consistently achieved annual growth rates of the order of 4 percent in recent years and is well placed to withstand the upheavals in the global economic system, having significantly reduced its fiscal deficits. He predicted that Southeastern Europe will be the economic «miracle» of the next 15 years, due to high growth rates and investment opportunities. Alogoskoufis said new incentives had helped Greece attract more than 8.5 billion euros in foreign investment in the last two years. The Invest in Greece Agency will be an enhanced version of its predecessor, Managing Director Dimitris Pazaitis said. The agency is preparing a series of investment guides, redesigning its webpage and launching a «front desk» service which will reply to all inquiries within 24 hours. The agency’s new operating strategy will be three-pronged: – The focused promotion of Greece’s investment opportunities, with the adoption of best practices. – Efficient support services to investors, covering all stages of the investment process, from planning to after-care. – Efforts to improve current investment services by thoroughly recording the issues and problems facing investors and submitting pertinent recommendations to the relevant departments. Inward-looking economy The Greek economy is the most inward-looking of the 27 member states of the European Union, according to the Panhellenic Exporters’ Association (PSE). «The outward-looking propensity of the Greek economy in the current decade is falling despite the major efforts being made. This is not a good omen as the country’s commercial and economic borders are now open and exposed to international competition,» said PSE’s Center of Export Studies and Research in a report. This, the study argues, means that economic growth is still largely based on the small domestic market, which is now being increasingly exposed to the forces of global competition. According to the report, Greek exports of goods and services as a percentage of gross domestic product (GDP) reached their highest point in 2000 and then declined, having stabilized in the last three years a little below 22 percent. The combined outward-looking propensity of the economy, as measured by exports and imports together, fell from 63.2 percent in 2000 to 56.4 percent in 2006. «Based on these two indicators, the level of the outward-looking propensity of the Greek economy is the lowest among the 27 EU members,» said the study. But the PSE report also ascertains a number of positives. «The influence of the cold currents flowing through the global economy will be much more limited this year, in part due to the Greek economy’s low degree of international exposure,» it noted.