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Greece’s deputy minister of economy and development, Stergios Pitsiorlas, tells Sebastian Shehadi about the country’s ongoing economic recovery, its improving FDI climate and the importance of EU membership.

Q: Broadly speaking, what are the greatest FDI opportunities in Greece?

A: The Greek economy is finally recovering after a very prolonged economic crisis. Greece has a variety of significant comparative advantages in traditional sectors such as tourism, which attracts an important part of FDI, but also other sectors are gaining attention: energy, infrastructure, transportation and logistics. In the past few years, FDI inflows have increased, thanks in particular to privatisation.

Q: Do you think the FDI climate in Greece is improving?

A: FDI has always been problematic for Greece. Its performance was quite poor compared with other EU countries, in spite of Greece’s strong economic growth in the decade before the crisis. But this trend has now changed. FDI inflows approached 2% of GDP in 2017 – a very good performance relative to past results. Net FDI inflows are at a record high since 2006. [Greece’s] strategic geographical location and strong human capital, in combination with the adjustments we’ve made [post-crisis], are making the country an ideal investment [destination].

Q: What is the greatest political threat to the improvement of Greece’s FDI landscape: eurozone politics or the Macedonia question, perhaps? 

A: Neither eurozone politics nor the Macedonia question are a threat to the FDI landscape; both present opportunities for stability and growth. As a member of the exclusive EU club, investing in Greece means access to the European market. It’s a sign to investors that Greece is an open market economy, respecting democratic values.

Obviously, dealing with eurozone politics is not an easy task, as 19 member states have to discuss and agree [on various matters], and also given the fact that the eurozone follows very specific rules in many fields from fiscal to competition policy. However, we have confirmed our trust in European values, as we think that the gains far [outweigh] losses.

Regarding the Macedonia question, we think that by solving the name dispute that has lasted more than a quarter of a century, this offers a great chance for us to provide stability in the region – key to FDI attractiveness – and also advance our role in the Balkans.

Q: Are there internal factors deterring more FDI into Greece?

A: Greece was never an investment-friendly country. Even in years of economic prosperity, our performance on most benchmarks was poor. This has now changed and through the adjustment process, when Greece implemented (and is still implementing) a lot of structural reforms, our ranking is improving. The Greek government is determined to follow all the necessary steps to make our country more attractive to investors: by fighting corruption, reforming the labour and product markets and establishing a more [open] growth model. Investment plays an important role in this process, as the investment gap is really big due to recession, and we are strongly trying to promote investment attractiveness by offering incentives to investors and simplify the investment licensing procedure, a very thorny issue for Greece.

Q: In terms of FDI, where would you like to see Greece in the next 10 years?

A: My vision for Greece in the coming years is to become a [more open] and productive economy following a virtuous economic growth path. I would like to see Greece establishing a new growth model that will attract strong FDI, while also exporting high-value-added products, instead of adopting a consumption-led model, [as we did] in the past decade. I am convinced that Greece has gained a lot of [valuable] experience through the [recession]. This summer we are eventually exiting the last economic adjustment programme and we are regaining our autonomy. Not only Europe, but the whole world is convinced that the Greek economy has recovered.

This article is sourced from fDi Magazine
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