June 28th, 2011
06:24 PM GMT
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(CNN) - Greece vows to sell many state-owned assets and catch up to what European countries started doing back in the 1980s. So, better late than never. But can Greece really sell £50bn worth of assets as promised?

There are many challenges. Firstly, the unions don't want to see state employees go to work for private firms and of course face massive job cuts.

The Greek can vow to sell this or sell that, but at what price? Will it be a fire sale meaning Greece won't get the money it needs? Who would buy real estate in Greece with so much uncertainty?

As one investor said at a Greek investment conference, "Reforming Hellas A Challenge" in London Tuesday, what's the point of buying land if you can't build on it? The point being the legendary red tape of doing business in Greece makes it hard to build in confidence and therefore even harder to get finance to start a massive project.

Still, there are strong words of assurance coming from the Greek government. It will change the laws to make it easier to wade through the bureaucracy. It will set up a "proper" legal framework to put assets up for sale.

"Although one can admit a very large number of mistakes," admitted George Christodoulakis, the Special Secretary for Asset Restructuring. He told the conference, "there is no reason to cry over the spilled milk. We should face the facts and optimize from now on."

I took it to mean yes Greece has been a poor place for foreign investors in the past, but the Greek people (read the unions) have got to face the fact that assets will be sold.

So, what is up for sale? The government's 55% stake in the new Athens Airport for one. Also the site of the old Athens airport. It’s minutes from the center of town, is on the coast and will be the most lucrative real estate asset on offer.

"We are talking about, first of all, extensive real estate; the old Athens airport is a major part of this, George Gourdomichalis of the Piraeus Marine Club told me. "What has been built around the Olympics [should be sold]. We are talking about concessions around infrastructure projects: bridges, highways, ports, airports."

But what we heard time and time again was that there is very little foreign investor confidence in Greece now. People talked about the risk of default which would mean any real estate investment could lose value, the risk of the government changing laws that would make investments less secure, the lack of transparency, the power of the unions; on and on.

"The image that Greece has is that it is not very transparent in its processes. That is scaring people are coming to invest in the country," Nikos Stathopoulos, Managing Partner of BC Partners told the conference.

What you also hear is that Greece has so much potential – be in the food sector or of course the tourism sector – but now is the time for Greece to catch up to the rest of Europe and realize that privatization and job uncertainty are on the way and here to stay. Welcome to the real world.

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soundoff (30 Responses)
  1. torontogreek

    "Welcome to the real world" = NO, welcome to YOUR world. Jealous of the Greek way of life by any chance? Greece is not America AND ITS NOT FOR SALE.

    June 28, 2011 at 6:55 pm |
  2. RJ Meyers

    Greece is not facing reality. By selling its assets and cutting spending, the government is guaranteeing that it will fail to balance its budget. I wouldn't be surprised if its annual deficits increase because of this. It is losing (selling) or dampening (lowered spending = depressed economy = lower tax revenue) its own revenue streams in order to raise quick money to pay down its debt. That's insanity because its long term position will deteriorate even more. It either needs to strengthen its existing revenue streams, find new streams, or get out of the Euro so it can begin issuing its own fiat currency to pay for things–and therefore not be beholden to the ECB and financial markets.

    June 28, 2011 at 7:42 pm |
  3. Max360

    The Truth is: Greek People Can NOT Handle the Truth. They will only give more excuses about how it`s always some one else to blame. Greece needs massive Reforms.

    Don`t expect many Greek people to support it since most Greeks live outside of reality in their self delusional fantasy realm. Where people retire at 50. Where people avoid taxes for their own short term benefits. Where Unions Push governments to financial collapse to provide them as many free bees as possible no matter what the future cost. Greeks have themselves to blame. But never expect them to agree since they will deny everything as they have ZERO backbone. The fact that Greece still has Communist parties should make people think twice about this nation. Greeks belonged as much in the Eurozone as a rotten apple.

    June 28, 2011 at 7:43 pm |
  4. Zennessee

    Keep up the good fight, Greece.

    June 28, 2011 at 8:15 pm |
  5. tobias2

    "The image that Greece has is that it is not very transparent in its processes. That is scaring people are coming to invest in the country," Nikos Stathopoulos, Managing Partner of BC Partners told the conference.

    What? Is it scaring that people are coming to invest in Greece?

    June 28, 2011 at 9:40 pm |
  6. Laaaaaaaazy

    Anything to avoid working, eh? The country is in more debt. They killed tourism by attacking the industry with these protests. Get back to work you lazy mofos...

    June 29, 2011 at 12:16 am |
  7. Hans

    Privatization and job uncertainty are the obvious things that the Greek people are rallying against, and yet you just dismiss this obvious resistance and demonstrable will of the people with the phrase "welcome to the real world." Capitalism, and the "economic" law of supply and demand, requires SCARCITY, real or artificial, to function. You know why air isn't sold? Because it's abundant. Our debt-driven, global capatlist market economy is a pyramid scheme coming to its end, because people are starting to realize the artificiality of that scarcity, that "debt." The cnetral banking institutions, their puppet governments and concurrent investor class simply do not get to pretend that debt is a material thing that exists in the real world. It is MADE UP! An ABSTRACTION of value! Yet your last little comment was "Greece must realize that privatization and job uncertainty are on the way and here to stay. Welcome to the real world." While I'm angry at you for dismissing human hearts so easily with the idea that your money is a real thing, I feel an even greater sense of pity for you, because you display an obvious disonnect with your fellow human beings, a disconnect from the TRUE immaterial measures that make life worth living in the first place... Welcome to the real world: If capitalism is the system, and money for labor is the way to survive in that system, then I'm afraid a job must then be declared a HUMAN RIGHT in that system, not an uncertainty. Until it is, you will see more and more people in the streets calling out the fact that the emperor has no clothes. I should caveat that by saying, I don't at all believe that money for labor should actually be the system anymore (as human labor becomes more and more replaced by information age technology, then you have to build a new system of human survival replacing "money for labor" with something else... nevermind that the investor class already doesn't labor at all for their "wealth" but instead just sit on their thumbs collecting dividends and complain about how the government workers owe them more money) but that's another discussion...

    June 29, 2011 at 1:48 am |
  8. Georgy

    Politicians and Corruptionocracy is the main problem in Greece. If corruption is eliminated, elect new politicians, abolish immunity for member of parliaments, if all these 3 elements are to be established then Greece will be heaven on earth

    June 29, 2011 at 5:32 am |
  9. Alberto

    Privatization and job uncertainty are not the Real world. We should call it Capitalism, and also remember where the crisis come from: US.

    June 29, 2011 at 5:48 am |
  10. Simpelton

    This is a way for an individual to buy the main assets of a country? Or even more, a country with the wealth to just buy Greece out altogether if they wait long enough..... Greece of China?

    June 29, 2011 at 5:50 am |
  11. tobias2

    Everybody and their uncle is giving advice to the Greeks nowadays about how they should maneuver themselves out of the morass of their own making. I believe I’ve found a good solution to the Greek problem and now I wish to share it with you.

    Greece should take a leaf out of the book of its dead friend, Milošević, and find a convenient enemy post haste. There's nothing like a shooting war to strengthen national unity, tighten the national belt, and get people to make big sacrifices. Tiny Macedonia to the north would be handy, since Greece has been waging a cold war on it for decades on account of that country "stealing" the name Macedonia which is apparently Greek property. Since, however, the mighty Greek war machine would make minced meat of Macedonia in a matter of days, Macedonia is hardly convenient as a shooting enemy. Turkey, however, would be an ideal foe. It is strong and resilient, it occupied Greece in the past, and continues to occupy the north of Cyprus. Go ahead Greece, don't be a chicken! Attack!

    June 29, 2011 at 6:22 am |
  12. Fripp

    Greece got more in common with a bananarepublic than being part of the EU.
    Paying taxes is something everyone from the rich to the poor try to avoid at any cost.
    Greece got the smallest income of taxes of any european country. Weird huh? Since its far from the smallest or the most poor.

    Lazy scumbags that leech of hardworking europeans. They deserver it so they can get their head out of their asses and start functioning like normal people.

    June 29, 2011 at 7:01 am |
  13. George Greek

    Capitalists are doing their best to destroy my country. They will fail. History is there to explain why. There is a long tradition about people's revolt and Resistance in Greece. We have the know-how required to turn any attempt to conquer us, to enslave our people, into a failure. That is OUR world, OUR country, OUR history. All the rest, all the planning about us, without us, is just non-sense.

    June 29, 2011 at 7:01 am |
  14. Jack

    Greece and the lazy lifestyle. Time to go to work. Pampered by EU countries for 100 years and now this. Well does really Greece cost that much money ?

    June 29, 2011 at 7:35 am |
  15. Bob H

    If the Greeks default it could bring down the euro, the dollar and start another major crisis from which the world may never recover. Treat the Greeks with the courtesy and respect they desrve. What have they to lose?

    June 29, 2011 at 7:49 am |
  16. a .. Laaazy Greek

    Laaaaaaaazy eh!!!. This is shame to generalize in such a way.
    It is true, part of Greece are the unions, and the public sector.
    But the MAJORITY, we are hard working people, many of them highly intelligent and qualified. But our work does not show unfortunately. Because the country is very bad organized, the politticians are inadequate and unreliable.
    Having worked in years in multinational environment, I can assure that greek private sector people work MORE ,
    MUCH more than – for instance GERMAN. No overtime in many cases, 10-12 hours of work per day.
    German "Hard working..." people, always will leave the office at 5 , not at 7, 8, 10, which is the rule in Greece for many companies.
    That's why there are so many Greek Proffessors in USA famous universities, eg UCLA, Harvard etc. (Much many than German I assume) .

    June 29, 2011 at 8:39 am |
  17. Marc I. Wenzel

    Jim Boulden, your article expresses your ignorance about what the Greek people are going through. And with disrespect towards the Greek people you say, "Welcome to the real world." In your world you don't know what the "real world" is for the Greek people. With articles such as these by CNN correspondents, misinforming CNN viewers about Greek reality, and with CNN mostly ignoring the Greek protest movement for real democracy at Syntagma Square (since 25 May), it is no wonder a CNN crew got attacked yesterday by rioters at the Syntagma area (however, I condemn such acts of violence). CNN, please start interviewing the Greek people and getting across the Greek reality and not only the reality of capitalist economics which serves the profiteers at the expense of the people.

    June 29, 2011 at 9:41 am |
  18. Seadweller

    Greeks do not retire at 50. It 's a silly (at least) lie.

    According to OECD data for 2008 (before Gr crisis) they work more hours than Germans & EU average and they retire at a higher age than Germans and the EU average.

    Go check yourselves

    June 29, 2011 at 9:45 am |
  19. Claes

    Max360: I used to be of your opinion. But if you weigh in corrupt politicians and how the perception (and probably some fact) is that the politicians borrow the country to the brink of ruin, money that they put in their own (and friends and family's) pockets, and now they ask the popoluation to pay taxes and carry the economic burden so that... these people can keep borrowing. Greece doesn't work like our contries do.

    June 29, 2011 at 10:02 am |
  20. Martin

    Buy it now for $50 and you got yourself a deal.

    June 29, 2011 at 10:43 am |
  21. Billie11

    I agree with Max360. I have come to believe that we are a thirld world country, misplaced in Europe. If we don't do away with the public sector and its pseudocommunist unionists we will go down in huge flames.

    I have worked in both the public and the private sector and I know what it means. The public sector is there for governments to use as a 'promise chip'. This is the truth.

    June 29, 2011 at 11:03 am |
  22. Dimi

    Greece will be heaven on Earth when:
    - Greece abolishes corruption and political networking
    - Germany sends to prison SIEMENS and FERROSTAAL companies which bribed Greek politicians to buy German submarines that bank 30 degrees once surfaced on sea water and overpriced railway cars.
    - France sends to prison DASSAULT company for overselling at very high prices their Mirage-2000 aircraft after bribing Greek politicians.
    - Europe sends to prison all these corrupt European bankers who gave loans to Greece (although they new the country cannot repay them) so Greece could buy all the European goods.

    It is ridiculous to see "Europeans" to accuse Greece since we were buying from you your CARS, AIRPLANES, TANKS, WARSHIPS, RAILWAY CARS, RADARS, SUBWAY TRAINS, everything you people manufacture SO YOU CAN LIVE HAPPILY EVER AFTER!!! And now that Greece cannot buy any more of your goods you shout "BURN THEM"!

    Maybe Greece should reconcile its loans with the loan the f... German NAZI's took from Greece in WWI and NEVER REPAID (obviously the Greek politicians are bribed again from their European "fellows" to play "silence" on the issue...)

    June 29, 2011 at 11:53 am |
  23. peter

    try working and you wouldnt be in this mess have u considered perhaps paying your fair share of tax and retiring at 50 unheard of in the EU call it laziness greece deserves to be kicked out of the EU you dont deserve other strong EU countries supporting your lazy economy dont look at other people in the EU for the reason to your demise

    June 29, 2011 at 12:36 pm |
  24. jp

    Sorry to burst your bubble, torontogreek, but I've been living here for 10 years and can tell you that there is absolutely NOTHING Americans have to be jealous of.

    June 29, 2011 at 3:07 pm |
  25. annos

    What individual has the capital to buy the Athens Internation Airport! Get real! They need other countries to buy them! This won't work. A bailout for the original bailout! Unbelievable! Sure, lets let Europe do that and cripple the world economy.

    June 29, 2011 at 5:44 pm |
  26. DeathToFreemasonsGR

    Instead of blaming the Greeks who enlighted the whole world, you should just take into consideration the fact that all this propaganda used to make people hate Greece keeps you all blinded.You should understand that if the German government gave us the war indemnity for W.W.2 we would have no debt, but we were going to lead the world economy.

    June 29, 2011 at 6:58 pm |
  27. galtinator

    This is what we can expect from a Socialist country. It's textbook.

    June 30, 2011 at 4:13 pm |
  28. BerlinBerlin

    Greece is a great country with very strong people. When the Greeks leave Greece for Germany or anywhere else abroad, they are the hardest working people on earth. And they work for the future of Greek children everywhere. But in Greece, they are used to the culture of Greece which means, take what you can get, make a deal, and try to get away with something. If the tourism industry is the biggest, why allow the idiots to strike? Prove to the rest of the world that we are not lazy, that we work hard, and that our country is beautiful and rich in many ways. And stop this stupidity about playing the blame game. It takes two people to agree and Greece also joined the Euro. Now, the question is; do we have the balls to get it back together or will we default default default and go into the history books as a lazy country that was unable to compete? I say no. But it takes a village....let's start right away.

    July 2, 2011 at 9:11 am |

    Do politicians in the USA go to prison if they perform illegal actions, e.g. tax evasion?

    July 21, 2011 at 1:54 pm |
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