NEWS

Papandreou woos Arabs on investment

Prime Minister George Papandreou yesterday appealed to Arab nations to invest in debt-ridden Greece, saying his administration had pushed through reforms to make it «investment-friendly.» «Greece is changing rapidly,» Papandreou said at the opening of an economic forum in Beirut. «We invite you all to join us, whether it is visiting Greece, whether it is investing in Greece, or whether it is working with Greece on common projects in the region for a better future for all of our countries,» he said. The Greek premier said his government had curbed bureaucracy and passed legislation facilitating the issuing of licenses for new companies. «They can get a license right away, while in the past it took many months,» Papandreou said. The premier also highlighted the traditionally close relations between Greece and Arab states as a foundation for potential partnerships. «Greece today is an opportunity for new business, but also an opportunity to further strengthen our historical and cultural ties,» Papandreou said. The premier heralded the creation of a special task force to help attract foreign investment, to be overseen by State Minister Haris Paboukis. The force will be charged with slicing through the bureaucracy that has discouraged would-be foreign investors in the past. Papandreou did not ignore the fact that, as he spoke, thousands of Greeks were taking to the streets to protest reforms aimed at boosting state coffers and making the Greek economy more competitive. «The Greek people are understandably voicing their views about the economic crisis, and it is painful,» he said. «We understand this, I understand this. We also know that we must move ahead with these changes in order to give the country a viable, competitive economy.»