Privatisations in Greece: The end of the road (with a question mark)

by Antonis D. Papagiannidis

 

Costas Mitropoulos, who served as CEO of the first Hellenic Republic Asset  Development Fund in 2011-12 – in fact this was the privatization outfit Greece had to build in order to deliver on the demands of the country’s creditors in the rough seas of its debt crisis – has written a book on this very topic: the saga of privatisations in Greece.

A seasoned management consultant with, inter alia, PwC and Coopers Lybrand and with the experience of top management positions in banking and finance, Mitropoulos carefully has an interrogation mark in his title: “Privatisations in Greece. The end of the road?”

He describes a 30-year trek, a situation where “overall, privatization in Greece was small compared with total economic activity […] contributing, directly or indirectly, 33 bn euros to public finances and proved overall marginally beneficial”. Still, “the continuous need of [Greek] governments to generate privatization proceeds faced robust opposition with discernible implications”. This created an effective political “battle” climate, with ongoing “permanent confrontation [that] strained privatization output, put limits to full ownership transfers and allowed for only some successful companies and projects after privatization”.

One wonders, at the end (?) of such road, whether either political actors or market participants realized this feeble end-result. That is, that the results achieved constituted “a small-scale economic phenomenon” notwithstanding the weight of privatization in the political debate throughout Governments changes and the shifts of economic conjuncture.

Maybe the “collateral benefits” of privatisation mentioned by Mitropoulos, that is a shift in public opinion mood throughout this process, will prove the more important achievement o fthe privatisaiton saga.