There is finally consensus that Greece needs a lot of foreign investment in order to spur growth. Even Alexis Tsipras, the country’s leftist prime minister, has realized that which is significant in itself. He has been reaching out to various international players and the content of his contacts indicates that he understands that the future of the country, as well as his own political future, both rely on the inflow of foreign capital.
Here, however, is where the difficult part begins.
A key problem is that many people suffer from the delusion that Greece is a unique destination for foreign capital. The truth is that as a country, we do have some strong comparative advantages. For one thing, Greece is now cheap. At the same time, it is a very complicated country where nothing can be taken for granted. The judicial system, the bureaucracy, tax laws and administration, vested interests and union groups all combine to form a toxic mix that make life very hard for anyone who wishes to invest their money in this land.
Tsipras’s main obstacle in his hunt for investments is that Greece has got itself a bad name internationally. In addition, the SYRIZA-led government has appointed ministers and officials to certain posts who are doing their utmost to further reinforce Greece’s status as a country that is unfriendly to investment. Their actions are driven by the belief that foreign investors share the same bazaar-style tactics as their Greek counterparts. They are of course wrong. What investors really want is clear rules and straightforward procedures; they do not like surprises and abhor state – let alone partisan – interference in their business affairs.
If Greece wants to come across as an underdeveloped economy, it will again manage to attract investors – albeit of a different kind. Some of them are already here. They came to make quick profit and their attitude smacks of colonialism. They are certainly not what we need.
Greece needs investors with a long-term plan, people with patience and persistence whose presence here will help the country restore its credibility. After all, any serious investor, even if they have the prime minister’s phone number, will call someone who has already invested their money in Greece to find out what really is going on here.
For all these reasons it is extremely important that people who have already invested here are treated in a consistent fashion. They are the ones who will either advertise the country or reinforce its bad reputation.