Friday, 12 April 2024

Special edition on Greece USA TODAY with interview of CEO, Mr. Marinos Giannopoulos- GREECE: The phoenix rising from its ashes

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Special edition on Greece USA TODAY with interview of CEO, Mr. Marinos Giannopoulos- GREECE: The phoenix rising from its ashes

GREECE: The phoenix rising from its ashes


The European Union’s southernmostcountry is back on its feet, after a decade-long financial crisis that necessitated painful austerity measures and across-the-board reforms. Unlike some of the bloc’s members that faced recession in 2023, Greece’s gross domestic product rose by 2.2% in 2023 and the EU expects it to increase by 2.3% this year and next. “The Greek economy is growing at a rate three-times higher than the European average; inflation is 20% lower than the eurozone average; unemployment has decreased to below 10%; and we’ve created over 400,000 jobs in the last few years, proving that our economy is growing despite multiple global crises,” states Minister of Development and Investments Kostas Skrekas. “From the black sheep of Europe, Greece has transformed and is now an example to be followed.”

Greece has also improved its fiscal position, notes Nikolaos Bakatselos, president of the American-Hellenic Chamber of Commerce (AmCham Greece): “It attained a primary surplus in 2022 for the first time and reduced its fiscal deficit to 1.6% of GDP. In addition, 2023 yielded a strong reelection of Prime Minister Mitsotakis’ government, with a clear mandate for continuing reforms.” Credit ratings agencies are impressed too, with both Standard & Poor’s and Fitch returning the country to investment grade status last year. According to Marinos Giannopoulos, CEO of the investment and trade agency Enterprise Greece: “It’s an extraordinary transformation. With the emergence of Greece 2.0, we have an economy that’s open and competitive. Our focus has shifted toward international markets and, with investment grade status, we’re opening more doors for investments in our country.”

Both exports and foreign direct investments are soaring: between 2019 and 2022, its international sales doubled, while FDI inflows rose by 52% with a significant influx of multinationals. Among Greece’s diverse export strengths are a pharmaceutical sector that manufactures 10% of Europe’s generics and an agri-food sector that benefits from the country’s incredible Mediterranean produce. However, “We want to expand our manufacturin base, as well as to revive some sectors that were phasing out, like shipyards,” the minister asserts. Leading the way in that respect is New York-based ONEX Shipyards and Technologies Group, which purchased two of Greece’s largest yards in 2019 and announced this year that it is investing $550 million on their modernization. Another prominent area attracting US and other international investors is tourism and real estate, which accounts for 30% of the nation’s GDP. “In the last five years, over 150 hotels have been built, we’re witnessing a surge in luxury offerings and the $9.3 billion The Ellinikon development project is set to transform Athens,” Giannopoulos states.

“FROM THE BLACK SHEEP OF EUROPE, GREECE HAS TRANSFORMED AND IS NOW AN EXAMPLE TO BE FOLLOWED.”
KOSTAS SKREKAS, MINISTER OF DEVELOPMENT AND INVESTMENTS
While Greece used to be dependent on the aforementioned traditional industries, its economy has diversified, reveals Skrekas: “We want to maintain and secure our momentum to achieve sustainable growth. For this purpose, we have turned Greece into a digital hub, a logistics hub and an energy hub for Southeast Europe, and the government has prioritized reducing Greece’s carbon footprint.”
The country is at the forefront of its region in digital technologies. Investors have installed 18 data centers to date, the most in Southern Europe, and more are being developed. Among those are billion-dollar investments from Microsoft, Google and Amazon, making Greece one of the few countries outside North America to host all three tech giants. “A decade ago, the concept of assimilating big investors like this was foreign to us. Today, we understand what large-scale investments entail and have the capability to efficiently facilitate them. We’ve gained the expertise to manage any substantial project that comes our way,” declares Giannopoulos. “Underscoring Greece’s attractiveness to big investors, Pfizer has established a global Center for Digital Innovation in Thessaloniki, where it initially aimed to employ 200 people, but the number now exceeds 1,000.”

One of the main benefits of Greece for tech firms, as well as other industries, is the massive investment the public and private sector have made and continues to make in nationwide digital infrastructure and international connectivity. The country is also investing in transportation and logistics infrastructure, says Giannopoulos: “Greece is strategically positioned to offer easy access from and to the Middle East, the Balkans and Europe. Currently, our facilities are being upgraded, with the $240-million development of Thriasio Logistics Centre near Athens being a notable example.” When it comes to energy, Greece has established itself as Southeastern Europe’s hub for gas, thanks to the development of liquefied natural gas terminals at Revithoussa and Alexandropoulos, as well as pipeline links with other European nations. Its ambition is to capitalize on its copious sun and wind resources to become a hub for green energy as well, asserts Skrekas: “Greece’s electricity demand is 50% covered by renewables. We want 80% to be covered by 2030 and our aim is to transform Greece from a net electricity importer to a net exporter. Therefore, we’re going to invest over $10 billion by 2030 on upgrading our grid and expanding interconnections with neighboring countries.”

The state’s ability to invest so much into national infrastructure has been bolstered by its allocation of $39 billion in grants and loans from the EU’s post-COVID Recovery and Resilience Facility, which is being targeted toward Greece’s green transition and digitalization. The government is also leveraging investment incentives to support private-sector projects that can accelerate the establishment of a sustainable, digital and innovative economy. These include a fast-track process for large investments, tax subsidies and cash grants. During Prime Minister Mitsotakis’ second term in office, his administration wants to make it more attractive and even easier to do business in Greece, says Giannopoulos: “The reforms from the government’s first term are a testament to what it wants to do. With the bar set high, we’re striving to implement more reforms in areas such as tax incentives, tax reforms and reducing bureaucratic obstacles. Our goal is to transition from ‘red tape to red carpet’ and our efforts are geared to constant improvement, not solely for investors, but for Greek citizens as well.”

According to AmCham Greece’s Bakatselos, 2023’s reelection of Mitsotakis’ reforming government highlights a notable shift in the population’s mindset: “After an unforgettable crisis, Greeks now exhibit a growth-oriented perspective that is untethered from past events. Anyone considering investing in Greece, the broader region or within the EU should get here today. It’s an exceptional
destination.”

Source: USA Today

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Greece_report_2024.pdf

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