OPINION

Driving away foreign capital

We have learned recently that there has been a wave of departures by foreign companies from Greece. Unfortunately, this comes as little surprise. Take, for example, one Japanese company that has for decades been trying to promote renewable energy sources here, but has failed to get to grips with the bureaucracy. You hear the same story, time and again, from Greeks trying to attract foreign investors to the country. When they first consider Greece, foreign investors believe it to be a European country. Their illusions are soon dispelled when they see that what appears European on the outside is anything but once you’re here. One lesson that most foreign investors have learned the hard way is that you can’t do business in Greece without the protection of the «big man» in charge of your area. Who are these wheelers and dealers? Just guys wearing many different hats who sell access to the deepest recesses of the Greek state, who ensure that there is little resistance from the media toward certain projects and who help to circumvent the monumental bureaucracy. Meanwhile, these are also the guys who know how to grease a cog in the wheels in the traditional Greek manner, be it with bribes or blackmail. There is only a handful of foreign investors who have succeeded in establishing a base here without these invaluable services. Siemens was one successful example. Most foreign companies, however, and especially multinationals, face another serious problem. When the government feels the pressure to come up with some quick cash, they find some reason to fine wealthy companies. Naturally, they would never go after a serious local player who defies every law in the book and enjoys protection on every level; it is simply easier to go after a foreign company. The fact, however, is that Greece is in desperate need of foreign capital. If things continue to be so difficult for foreign investors, Greece will suffer badly and, by extension, so will the leeches that live off them.