If and when

Foreign investors interested in Greece should first talk to those who came before them, like Chinese shipping company COSCO and anyone who tried to sink money into the tourism sector on a grand scale. Chances are they will also say that they were given a really hard time. There is a string of obstacles that lie in the way of major investments: The political system, unions and local authorities are all well-versed in repelling investment. If this hostile attitude persists, no one will want to invest in Greece, no matter how many trips the prime minister makes in order to convince them otherwise. Meanwhile, many of Greece’s neighbors have rolled out the red carpet for foreign investors. George Papandreou and a few of his ministers are currently on a campaign to attract American investors. The scene is a familiar one: Greek-American businesspeople gathered at central New York hotels listening to the premier or one of his ministers talking about investment opportunities in Greece, without there being any serious follow-up. Greece, unfortunately, has a long way to go before it can regain its credibility among markets and investors. As well-spoken as Papandreou and Finance Minister Giorgos Papaconstantinou may be, it will take more than words to woo the foreigners, who are expecting to see tangible changes. Naturally, there are those who will go after an opportunity, either by buying up businesses or prime real estate whose price has plummeted, especially land owned by the state. Of course, even in the latter case, how easily would any state official sign a sales agreement, given the current climate of distrust? Foreign investors are waiting to see if Greece will change – if it will put its finances in order, stop submitting doctored data and begin acting like a European Union country. If and when Greece convinces them that this is being done, and if and when the state begins treating people willing to put their money into the country with some respect, then maybe we will see some real investment in Greece. Until then, however, even the most attractive proposals to woo investors will essentially be empty promises and the only investors we are likely to see are those who have political connections and are looking to a make a fast buck.

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