Can the real estate sector play a part in solving the Greek crisis?

At the end of 2011, just after the IMF agreed to provide financial support for Greece, George Kaburopulos, Principal at Dorian Strategic Partners and ULI National Council Chair Greece, shared his thoughts about the benefits that real estate could bring in helping the country to recover from its economic difficulties. We caught up with him this month to discuss the ongoing crisis.

“It appears real estate still has a vital role to play in helping us to rebuild Greece. Politically, however, the austerity measures over the past six months have hurt people and made them react more radically, hence the increase in votes for the far left or the far right. This has led to political instability. I believe, despite this, that the great majority of the Greek people want to remain in the Eurozone and are committed to the EU. We are Europeans at the core as our history proves   and we believe we are an undividable part of Europe’s future.

“It is essential that we create investment opportunities in the key sectors – tourism, energy, shipping and services. We have valuable real estate and we need to exploit the publicly owned part of it to get our economy moving. I think this can be realised through Public Private Partnerships and should involve tourist properties and public buildings in major cities. We should also be maximising our natural resources – sun, wind, sea, and become more energy efficient and sustainable through privately managed projects.

“What I hope we achieve is a stable, pro-European government that is geared towards improving market conditions but at the same time protecting Greek citizens. We need to see tax incentives and less bureaucracy, solid property rights and a commitment that land uses won’t change with every new government.

“I would like to see the creation of a national and regional urban plan – a cohesive strategy for Greece that will help investors to envisage how they can build here and what it will mean for them in the future.

“Finance is also important. Greek banks have no liquidity, so they need the support of the EFSF to create opportunities that will lead to growth. They can’t afford to underwrite Greek property development, so we need the involvement of European banks and overseas investors.

“We have to remember that we are sitting on a strategic location, we have access to oil, gas and solar energy, we have the biggest shipping fleet in the world and we are one of Europe’s top tourist attractions. These are things we can build on. We are eligible under the JESSICA (Joint European Support for Sustainable Investment in City Areas) Programme for regional financing and this could result in investments of more than 500 million euros, but we have to ensure these projects have a social benefit and they are economically viable.

Our goal is to become one of the most attractive places in Europe to live, study, work, and invest in but we cannot do it alone.”