Thursday, December 30, 2010

Golf in Greece: A Byzantine Ordeal

Wall Street Journal
December 29, 2010

Building a golf course in Greece is a byzantine process.

Much of Greece isn't covered by zoning laws, so forestry experts have to pore over military aerial photos to figure out what land might be acceptable to develop. Then, because land is typically held in small lots, it's sometimes necessary to buy up more than a thousand tracts.

After this, approval is needed from three sub-sections of Greece's culture ministry—the Classical, the Byzantine and the Modern—plus an additional one devoted to underwater relics.

Finally, Greece is not yet geared to develop mixed-use resorts—with golf, villas and hotels—of the kind that might attract wealthy tourists. One developer, Spyros Tzoannos, said he had to accumulate some 2,000 government signatures for a complex of resorts in the Peloponnese.

"There is a matrix of laws and a whole list of approvals that deter many investors," says Mr. Tzoannos, a director of Dolphin Capital Partners. "This maze does not only deter investors, but also overwhelms governmental employees as they, too, are often unsure of what needs to be done."

The hurdles to building a golf course in Greece speak to the country's broader economic problems and, in particular, how Athens hasn't been able to capitalize on the country's rich natural environment to earn some badly-needed money.


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