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Survey Shows! Investors Keen On Greece Again, But With Caveats

Αssociated Press

(AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris, FILE)

ATHENS – Even before the boost given by Microsoft's announcement it would invest in a 1-billion-euro ($1.18 billion) project for data centers and cloud services in Greece, interest among foreign businesses was growing.

The New Democracy government had moved to accelerate a slow recovery from a near decade-long economic and austerity crisis before the COVID-19 pandemic hit in February, stalled by a 10-week lockdown closing non-essential businesses.

But the Conservatives reaching out to investors was paying off after it took power in July 7, 2019 snap elections, ousting the former anti-business Radical Left SYRIZA which had hardcore elements not wanting them.

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis had moved to pick up the pace for beginning work in the long-stalled 8-billion-euro ($9.41 billion) development of the abandoned Hellenikon International Airport on Athens' coast, a project stymied by the Leftists during their 4 ½ year reign.

The EY EY Attractiveness Survey Greece 2020 done by a subsidiary of the Ernst & Young accounting firm showed a range of factors making Greece more attractive despite its long-standing reputation as being difficult on investors for licensing, permits and corruption.

Some 28 percent of those surveyed said they intended to make an investment in Greece in the next 12 months, the highest rate among all European countries where EY has conducted in similar polls.

But the investment plans originate almost exclusively with enterprises already located in Greece, as the rate drops to only five percent otherwise.

A now stable political environment, performance in sustainable development and climate change polices were cited as favorable, said Kathimerini, the survey finding investment projects especially desired in renewable energy sources.

Greece's quality of life, telecommunication infrastructure and human capital were also lures but there were reservations about whether innovation and high-tech industries would be helped enough to be competitive.

There's also a need by the government to concentrate on tax reduction, improving judicial procedures and strengthening education and skills, the accounting report indicated.

The survey that EY Greece Chief Executive Panagiotis Papazoglou presented at a Capital Link conference showed 67 percent of investors more willing to put money into the country of those areas are improved, and 83 percent for those already with businesses here.

Some 69 percent expect the country's image as an investment destination will improve over the next three years while the rate of those who believe the government is friendlier toward business has jumped from 50 to 62 percent.

Industry has tripled its contribution in the investments planned, as it accounts for 26 percent of projects being considered against just 9 percent in 2019.