Attracting investment

It used to be the same old story. Each time a Greek minister would return from an official visit to the United States, he would make pompous announcements concerning supposedly imminent foreign investments in the country.

Each and every time, though, closer scrutiny would reveal the uncomfortable truth that there was not much substance to his ambitious announcements.

Today, the truth is that there are a number of serious investors out there who are seeking opportunities; they represent so-called distressed funds (or vulture funds) or regular companies.

Prime Minister Antonis Samaras has spent a great deal of time and energy trying to attract investors as he is very well aware that foreign investments are crucial if Greece is ever to exit the ongoing economic crisis.

The investors, on the other hand, are impressed at how personally involved he is in each aspect of the process, but at the same time they wonder to themselves whether it is logical for a country to be run this way.

Speaking of the right people in the right places, a reference must regrettably be made at this point to the deputy minister who is responsible for foreign investment. It is a pity really that the efforts of the prime minister, and of the country at large, are being undermined by the poor work and cheap PR stunts of the politician in question. Just observing his efforts to approach foreign investors and promote national exports feels like watching a black-and-white Greek comedy from the 1950s.

We need to be extremely careful here because most foreign investors are keeping a close eye on the Greek market. But that does not mean to say that they are putting any money into the country. They are certainly consulting each other and pay a great deal of attention to the performance of investments already under way.

Embarrassing reports about investment flops make them reluctant to put money in Greece. Experience shows that only if the premier is informed about the problem is there a chance of it being solved.

But this is no way to govern a country, and no amount of energy and self-denial from Samaras can turn things around. Greece desperately needs strong institutions and the right people in the key posts.