ATHENS – Deputy Economy Minister Stergios Pitsiorlas said the ruling Radical Left SYRIZA is taking its time but will solve roadblocks holding up two major projects, development of the old Hellenikon international airport and the Skouries gold mine near Thessaloniki.
Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has been crowing he’s going to bring in foreign investors – ironically by reneging on promises to stop privatizations such as the two projects which have been stalled by dissidents in his party who don’t want any foreign businesses.
Pitsiorlas is a former head of the country’s privatization agency whose leadership has been a revolving door of management changes as it lags far behind in goals set by the country’s international lenders for the sale of state assets.
While the consortium trying to build the $8 billion development of the old airport, set to become a high-end area of businesses, luxury residences, a casino, yacht port and a park far smaller than originally intended said the government is blocking them, he said it is proceeding “step by step,” which the builders disputed.
He told the Athens-based Realnews that it’s going ahead “… by creating a wider consensus and dealing with problems emanating from two directions simultaneously: On the one hand, by the state administration, which is influenced by previous distrust and opposition to the project; on the other hand, by the investors, who view the government with extreme suspicion, trapped in a previous view of relations between investor and the government.”
Asked about the Hellas Gold mining concession in northern Greece, the biggest industrial investment in the country, Pitsiorlas said the government is trying to work that out too without offering any specifics in either case, repeating previous optimism that hasn’t been borne out yet.
The mine has faced violent opposition from locals fearing effects on tourism and the environment and the government has been blocking it at the same time Tsipras said it’s not and that he wants foreign investors loathe to take a chance on Greece during a crushing economic crisis and after the Premier imposed an avalanche of taxes on orders of the country’s European creditors putting up a third bailout, this one for 86 billion euros ($100.88 billion) he said he would never seek nor accept but did both.
He blamed Hellas Gold for being impatient and not putting up with years of protests and delays, adding that, the “investing company cannot show patience for a few more months, and is instead proceeding with pressure that makes no sense.”
He also claimed that main opposition New Democracy (ND) party is attempting to take advantage of the situation by peddling a “scenario” entitled “SYRIZA (the ruling party) is allergic to (foreign) investments”.