January 11, 2014
Greece is a bad advertisement for government ownership—and for privatisation. Its state holdings are poorly managed and mostly subject to political meddling. The privatisation programme, launched through gritted teeth when the economy imploded, is woefully behind schedule. The government managed to miss its revenue target for 2013 even after scaling it back twice, to just €1.3 billion. Everyone knows that sell-offs could do little to close Greece’s 12-figure financing shortfall. But they could help, and the country’s creditors are impatient.
The programme is under review, but Greece’s institutions and polity are so dysfunctional that “nothing short of a bone-marrow transplant” will do, says a consultant to international lenders. One promising idea—to transfer assets that could be sold or restructured to a holding company abroad, say in Luxembourg, where they would be insulated from interfering politicians—has already been shot down. The Finns pushed this proposal, believing it could serve as a model for other troubled economies, such as Portugal. But it was met with hostility by Greek ministers.