OPINION

The Greek brand name

Every country is in competition with the rest of the world for a fundamental edge: its reputation, or brand name. The Greek brand name sank to all-time low in 2010, either because our politicians were defaming the country or because we suited the unfair and exaggerated stereotypes assigned to us. With time and effort, we eventually reached a point where we had regained much of our credibility and good reputation. Greece was cast as a country that could make it despite the odds. Investors started considering significant projects and in the ruthless battle for capital, nothing speaks more than a good reputation that is built on by word of mouth. One successful investment leads to another, and so on.

I am sorry to say that all that good will, all the precious capital is now vanishing fast and Greece is once more perceived as a problematic country that is incapable of a turnaround. Is it surprising that we have lost important and old friends such as former French statesman Valery Giscard d’Estaing? Or that major investors with a host of capital behind them are advising against Greece? Why are our one-time champions in Brussels and elsewhere throwing in the towel, saying they can’t do more for the country?

Once more, we have shot ourselves in the foot. All this discussion about vested interests and corruption needs to finally reach some kind of conclusion because the way it is being conducted has simply pandered to a handful of leftists and center-left intellectuals. We also have to consider the few big investors left in Greece, who are being driven to desperation. First of all, the Chinese, who are waiting to see whether the visits this past week by Greek government officials to China will unlock the rest of the privatization of Piraeus. The Canadians are also waiting to see how their investments will fare as there’s almost no communication with official authorities in Athens.

The general secretary for investment recently did great promo work when he told an international forum that it is perfectly normal for the legal framework to change and investments to be reviewed by a new government. How can anyone be expected to sink any money in a country when they don’t know what tomorrow will bring?

We have lost friends and supporters. We shouldn’t confuse those who view Greece as the spark that will set off the European revolution with the allies we need to get back on our feet. We appear to be under the delusion that because we have a privileged geopolitical position and many natural attractions, everyone will come running. We are kidding ourselves. We are in competition with the entire world and especially with our neighbors who don’t turn investors away.

It is depressing how isolated we have become and even more so that we don’t appear to realize it. It will take years to rebuild the Greek brand name.