by Paul Hannon
Wall Street Journal
June 28, 2011
Persuading anyone to invest in Greece must be one of the toughest jobs in the world right now, but absolutely essential if the government is to get anywhere near its target of raising €50 billion from its privatization program and avoid a default on its debts.
So spare a thought for the British Hellenic Chamber of Commerce, which organized a conference in London Tuesday attempting to do just that.
The backdrop didn’t help. The Athens parliament was debating a new medium-term economic program that is needed to secure more funding from the euro zone and the International Monetary Fund, while protestors gathered outside.
Because the vote is expected to be a close-run thing, Greek legislators had to stay in the capital. That meant the conference’s keynote speaker–Alternate Minister for Regional Development, Competitiveness and Shipping Harris Pamboukis–was unable to attend. As was Kostis Hatzidakis, a member of the opposition New Democracy party.
The role of keynote speaker was instead performed by George Christodoulakis, head of the privatization program at the Ministry of Finance. He outlined the schedule for sales over coming years, and confirmed that half of the expected revenues will come from real estate. He then revealed that the government doesn’t yet know how much real estate it actually owns, and the €25 billion it expects to get from that sector is an estimate based on the assumed value of the former Athens airport site, multiplied across the country.