As Greece tries to fight a debt crisis that caused an unemployment rate of almost 28 per cent and a total Gross Domestic Production (GDP) loss of 25 per cent in the last six years, the efforts of the Greek government are intensifying in attracting foreign investment, especially from countries with a substantial Hellenic diaspora presence.
During his recent trip to the United States, Prime Minister Antonis Samaras re-affirmed the commitment of his government to do business with influential Greek Americans. Powerful Greek American executives such as Jamie Dimon of JP Morgan Chase and Darwin born and Queensland University educated Andrew Liveris, president, chairman and executive officer of the 57 billion dollar Dow Chemical Company, are taking a leading role in the effort to rejuvenate Greece.
Through the Hellenic Initiative and with the help of former United States President Bill Clinton, influential Greek American business leaders are planning to provide fast and effective support. Already under way there is a $100 million private-equity investment fund for small and midsize businesses frozen out of the capital markets. It is expected that this fund will be able to start making investments from 2014 as well as attempting to address the financing needs of start up companies in Greece.
It is worth noting that the 3 million Americans of Greek descent are well entrenched in the US economy. According to The Washington Post, the fortunes of the 50 richest individuals is estimated at $35 billion to $50 billion – almost one fifth of Greece’s GDP.
The Greek government is searching for investors in the tourism industry, which accounts for 15 percent of the GDP in Greece, as well as in the fields of gas and oil exploration, solar energy, transportation and in Information Technology.
The American and Israeli interest in investing in Greece was re-affirmed again this week as a result of a state visit to Israel by Prime Minister Antonis Samaras who’s entourage
included eight ministers and 104 Greek businessman.
There is a renewed international and diaspora interest in Greek investment as the Greek government prepares to assume the rotating six month presidency of the European Union from the 1st January 2014 and also intensifies its efforts to attract foreign money into the country.
Part of the bid to attract more direct foreign investment into Greece were the two meetings that Prime Minister Antonis Samaras had this week with the chairmen of the Chinese ZTE Corporation and Google, two of the world’s biggest companies.
ZTE Chairman Hou Weigui formally informed the prime minister of the Chinese company’s intention to create between 400 and 600 jobs through the firm’s investment at the port of Piraeus. He confirmed that ZTE will use Piraeus as the main transit center for its products in Europe. Hou also informed the government that ZTE is planning to also utilise its Greek base into a central customer service point for the whole of Europe.
The Chinese plan is similar to the decision taken a few months ago by Hewlett Packard to use Greece as its transit center for its products in Europe.
Prime Minister Antonis Samaras also met this week with the executive chairman of Google, Eric Schmidt, in the context of the latter’s visit in Greece to address a seminar on start-up companies.