Greece Is For Sale – And Everything
By Nick Dearden
August 19, 2015
- I've just had sight of the
latest privatisation plan for Greece. It's been
issued by something called the Hellenic Republic Asset
Development Fund – the vehicle supervised by the
European institutions, which has been tasked with
selling off an eye-watering €50 billion of Greece's
The fund was a real sticking point
because the European institutions wanted to move it to
Luxembourg, where they could keep a better eye on it.
Anyhow, it's still in Athens, and this document, dated
30 July, details the goodies on sale to international
investors who fancy buying up some of the country.
attached it to this blog to give a flavour of what’s
up for grabs at the moment. Fourteen regional airports,
flying into top tourist hubs, have already gone to a
German company, but don’t panic because stock in Athens
airport is still on the table, as well as Athens' old
airport which is up for a 99 year lease for
redevelopment as a tourism and business centre.
Piraeus and Thessaloniki ports are up
for sale – the former case has caused the chief
executive to resign and industrial action has begun. A
gas transmission system looks likely to be sold to the
government of Azerbaijan, but there’s still a power and
electricity company, the postal service, a transport
utility which allows trains and buses to run, the
country’s main telecommunications company, a 648 km
motorway, and a significant holding in the leading oil
refiner, which covers approximately two-thirds of the
country’s refining capacity.
Holdings in Thessaloniki and Athens
water are both on sale – though public protest has
ensured that 50% plus 1 share remains in state hands.
Nonetheless, the sale will mean that market logic will
dictate the future of these water and sewerage
monopolies. Finally there are pockets of land, including
tourist and sports developments, throughout Greece.
A second document, also attached,
details the short-term work programme of various
government ministers, detailing actions they must take
in order to add value to these assets. This includes
introducing toll booths on roads to licensing casino
rights to declaring sites of archaeological interest.
The document begs the question as to why government
ministers are even needed, it would surely be easier to
cut them out of the equation altogether and let EU
institutions directly administer the country.
Why does this matter? First because
makes no sense to sell off valuable assets in the middle
of Europe’s worst depression in 70 years. Those
industries could generate revenues to help the Greek
government rebuild the economy. In fact, the vast
majority of the funds raised will go back to the
creditors in debt repayments, and to the
recapitalisation of Greek banks.
So the privatisations aren’t to do
with helping Greece. The beneficiaries are corporations
from around the world, though eyebrows are particularly
being raised at the number of European companies – from
German airport operators and phone companies to French
railways – who are getting their hands on Greece’s
economy. Not to mention the European investment banks
and legal firms who are making a fast buck along the
way. The self-interest of European governments in
forcing these policies on Greece leaves a particularly
Most important is the inequality this
will entrench in Greek society for decades to come. Of
course the fact that the state currently holds these
assets is no guarantee of democracy. Clientelism is rife
in Greece. But the answer is transparency and democracy,
just as German citizens are currently trying to take
back energy companies into collective ownership because
they see this as a prerequisite for fair pricing and
supporting renewable energy.
What won’t help is flogging
off monopolies to private corporations who have no
interest in Greece’s people. Workers will be sacked and
their conditions made worse, while the elite of Europe
profits. Greece’s government will have lost the ability
to make its society function in the interests of
But then, I suspect that’s the point.
Nick manages the staff team and
resources on behalf of Global Justice Now's members. He
is also the public face of the organisation. Nick
started his career at War on Want where he became a
senior campaigner. He went on to be corporates campaign
manager at Amnesty International UK.