If you think Greece has made progress in the past three years, you really should tell me how you get informed. I need that sort of optimism and selective perception. I live in Greece and I breathe with Greek businesses of all sizes, shapes and forms. Things are much much worse than they were when we started these bailouts.
Corruption is not only endemic but in our face. That is something not measured in the international lists of corrupt countries but it matters. The rule of law is a joke when you combine corruption with delays in decisions. Greek courts can ruin any business endeavor. They do. Every day. The so called “ease of doing business” indicator hasn’t moved much. But companies have! Bulgaria, Cyprus or even Brexiting UK are preferred by Greeks starting a new business. Tax regulations change all the time. They even applied additional taxes retrospectively which is possibly a world first. Greece has signed up to surpluses so ridiculous that taxing anything that moves, anything that doesn’t move and anyone even looking at the scene, is the only way to conform to the demands.
The population of Greece has been babyfed government handouts for many decades. They pay those ridiculous taxes because they still have money stashed in various guides. The young people that don’t leave the country are the ones hoping for a job in the public sector. So we are left with the worse kind of employee. Unless you are a tech start up that can get by with a few bright minds, you are likely to come out of job interviews wondering what the hell these kids are thinking; demanding high salaries but not willing to put in the effort or show any kind of flexibility. Don’t be harsh on them. They grew up in houses with two parents living comfortably from the public sector, essentially not working. Whatever you offer them can never be as good as that!
We have one of the worse governments on the planet. Pretty sweeping statement but I can back it up. They sign laws to appease our debtors but these laws are not enforced. Worse still, and the reason I claim the world title so easily, is the amazing way they use a pseudo ideological way to dismantle anything good, decent or productive in Greece. You can’t call them “common thieves” because thieves are not so ignorant, nor so bold. They haven’t even managed to proceed with obvious and easy privatizations, partly because of these schizophrenic pseudo ideological concerns. You know this is investment hell when they can’t even sell off prime beach real estate (Asteras Vouliagmenis) or develop an ideal part of the city. (Ellinikon)
Our infrastructure is pathetic. Yes I know the roads are better than they are in Nigeria and we have a fairly stable electricity supply. But as has been proved time and time again by our current government, they cannot reach agreements on major issues like privatizing the grid. They can’t control labor unions which strike because they demand the right to continue destroying the environment with lignite abuse. So our infrastructure was OK but whether it will be able to ever get to any next phase of development is doubtful.
Probably the best place to witness all the above problems together is tourism. That great hope. Probably what you thought of when you read the title. “Invest in Greece: get a house on the beach”. Sure, after you deal with the corruption, the spoilt locals, the crazy government and the lack of infrastructure. All sorts of people will be asking for bribes or giving bribes on your behalf to speed up proceedings. Then you will discover that the neighbor built something right in front of your house, or cut off your way to the beach and there is nothing you can do about it. Then the government will impose yet another tax on your property, a tax you have to pay every year on top of the tax you paid when you bought it. Then you will wait for a decent internet connection, sort of get it, then it will be down again.
I don’t think you would spend even a small amount on buying a house on the beach if you looked carefully enough. So who the hell is stupid enough to make a real investment in Greece?