GIG: Greece has presented a very ambitious plan, Greece 2.0, to grow and transform the economy funded in part by the EU’s Recovery & Resilience Facility. What role do you expect the private sector, and particularly foreign investors, to play?
Georgiadis: Our vision for the future of Greece is based on a partnership between the government and the private sector. We believe all major projects should count on private sector participation, not only for burden-sharing, but because we want to count on the vision and participation of people and organisations that believe in the market and want to do business in Greece.
We have a lot of money on the table that can be used in partnership with foreign investors to undertake projects in Greece, in an array of sectors. From renewable energy projects to logistics, through to R&D and digital technologies, we want to facilitate these investments and we encourage foreign investors to come and do business in Greece.
GIG: What new incentives or policy reforms can you point to that will contribute to attract and facilitate foreign investors’ involvement in Greece’s new growth plan?
Georgiadis: We have worked very hard to transform the crisis derived from the pandemic into an opportunity for our country; to use EU funding and tools in the smartest and most efficient manner. It’s important to highlight that this isn’t just about spending money, is about finding ways to ensure a bright future for the Greek people.
While we are very pleased that the European Commission accepted our plan as a well-designed and strong plan, what we are most encouraged by is the conviction that this plan will contribute to accelerate GDP growth by more than 7% over the course of the next six years. Our main objective is to drive our economy into a new era.
From a reform perspective, we have made significant strides since July 2019 and the effort is ongoing. Firstly, we are reducing taxes and Social Security fund contributions. Secondly, are providing an array of incentives in the form of tax cuts and deductions targeting investments, particularly in start-ups and R&D. I believe our incentives are now very competitive and on par with any other European country.
GIG: How have the effects of the pandemic impacted investment projects that were already in the pipeline in Greece? How has this impacted investor interest?
Georgiadis: With the exception of the privatisation of the Athens Eleftherios Venizelos Airport, which has been put on hold due to the severe effects of the pandemic on the wider aviation industry, all other major investments and privatisations are ongoing.
There was no slowdown, not even during the pandemic. In fact, in some cases, the pandemic actually worked to Greece’s benefit because the country managed to bolster its reputation across the world thanks to the government’s successful management of the health crisis. As a result, several foreign funds that didn’t previously have Greece on their radar decided to turn to Greece and invest in the country.
Now, investor interest is on the rise thanks to the EU’s Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF) along with Greece’s development plan, Greece 2.0. This is creating a great deal of expectation, not just with respect to EU funding and financial tools, but in so far as how the growth plan will transform the Greek economy in the years to come. International companies and investors are seizing the opportunity.
When Pfizer decided to build their digital centre in Thessaloniki, they committed to hiring 200 computer engineers. They recently announced they would increase this to 500 engineers. Why? Because they found a lot more well-educated and competent people than they expected in Thessaloniki, and at a very competitive cost compared to other Western countries.
Microsoft picked Greece for the development of their regional data centre; U.S. based Digital Realty also chose Greece, and these are just a few examples.