OPINION

From the Acropolis to the casino

A rumored investment worth several billion euros at the site of the former airport at Elliniko by a group of capital investors from Qatar brings us face to face with a number of important questions, especially if the rumor that they want to open a casino is true. The first question is: Do we want investments? Of course we do and no one would argue otherwise, especially under the current circumstances. If so, what do we have that we can sell off? Land. Let’s say 600 hectares of prime real estate at Elliniko, right beside the sea, overlooking the Saronic Gulf, a stone’s throw from the Acropolis, a short drive from Sounio, under the shadow of Mount Hymettus, with an excellent public transportation network and other infrastructure. The value of this plot of land cannot be estimated by the abovementioned assets unless we first answer question Number 3: What does Greece sell? Plots or services? Land or tourism? Real estate or value-added products? Is Greece a real estate agent or a producer? The way land is used is a strategic decision that affects many generations. Tourism in Greece developed on the basis of such decisions – those that were made and those that were not, for better or for worse. Some tourism developments were rational and correct, others were arbitrary and uncontrolled. Some encroached on nature’s beauties, others on people, history, monuments and symbols. We have no problem selling these; they are our comparative advantage after all. A casino at Elliniko, together with all the other functions that go with such an investment, is a radically different proposition of tourism development, one modeled on the likes of Las Vegas. Is this what we want? Is it in our best interests? Do we want the Attica coastline to become transformed into a strip in Nevada? There is no easy answer. However, we do have to think about it, and we do have to impress our concerns upon the government, which is busy negotiating strategic investments that have far-reaching consequences without having a plan, without being certain about its direction, without adhering to the democratic process. Do we want Attica to become Las Vegas?