Q: For those new to Greece, which areas should foreign investors be looking at?
A: Logistics is the primary one, as Greece is developing the capacity to capture increased trade flows to Europe. Thirty-five per cent of total recent FDI in Greece is in logistics, coming, among others, from China. Opportunities still exist in upgrading existing infrastructure and greenfield investments.
The tourism sector is particularly attractive for investment. We need tourist infrastructure to cover a 25% increase in arrivals since 2014, which already exceeded the Greek population three times.
The food and beverage sector, fuelled by a continuous increase in exports since 2015, offers investment opportunities both in cultivation and in processing. Finally, we welcome investors to participate in large energy projects, mainly network infrastructure and hydrocarbon extraction.
Q: Do you think the FDI climate in Greece is improving, and if so, why?
A: Net FDI inflows reached €3.6bn in 2017, an annual increase of 27.6%, marking a record for the past decade. Foreign investors come mainly from EU, but also from Switzerland, Canada, the US and, at a strong trend, China.
Upscale FDI inflows are attributed to both Greece's recovery in 2017 and to the unprecedented progress that has been made in structural reforms, most of which aim to establish a business-friendly environment, such as the implementation of three OECD toolkits. Our ambitious privatisation programme has succeeded in accounting for the largest part of the recent FDI. Specific legislation to support investments is in place, such as simplified licensing procedures.
Greece [boasts a] strategic location at the crossroads of three continents, stability and high growth as it emerges from a deep recession, modern infrastructure required to support investments, and high-calibre human capital with international experience available. Last but not least, Greece is a great place for expats to live and work.
Q: What is the greatest threat to the improvement of Greece’s FDI landscape?
A: As the final review of the Greek economic adjustment programme has been completed, Greece is in a position to fully finance itself in the markets, and vulnerabilities have subsided considerably. We need to further leave behind the [more closed] growth model encouraged by previous administrations that led Greece to its hard crisis.
I’m confident the government and society as a whole have already embraced the narrative of change, the narrative of an investment- and export-oriented economy.
Q: What internal factors are deterring more FDI into Greece?
A: The banking system has not solved the non-performing loans issue yet, and access of local or foreign investors to finance is still limited. Also, further steps need to be taken on the digitalisation process in the public sector, as well as the reform of the judicial system to speed up and resolve disputes in a timely manner. At the same time, the country is completing its national cadastre [land recording] and its integrated spatial planning to tackle the issue of land uses. Finally, the tax system should be more simple and stable.
Q: In terms of FDI, what is your economic vision for Greece and the region?
A: [In] the past three years, we have established a high FDI growth trend. We can maintain, even increase, this rate and double FDI every two or three years. Assisted by the presence of an increasing number of leading multinational companies, Greece is becoming a logistics and energy hub, one of the top five tourist destinations and holds a tremendously skill-based human capital.
Finally, I would like to see [the country] playing a key role in the high growth of the south-east Europe and Middle East markets, with which Greece already has strong business and cultural ties.