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Greece debt: Government sees hope in privatization despite protests

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“We’re living through a waking nightmare,” says Tratras, who also demonstrated during protests in March soon after he was laid off. He worked for Olympic Airways for 30 years. Now, he is having to face the fact of a pledged compensation going unfulfilled even while hiding from his family exactly how dire their financial straits are.

“I have two children in college who need €2,000 ($2,400) a month," he says. "What can I ask them to do? Leave university?”

China to the rescue?

Privatization continues at a rapid pace. The government hopes to raise another €3 billion ($3.7 billion) through another round of state sales that will privatize public utilities and lease airports, seaports, railways, and highways to private firms for fixed periods of up to 40 years. The government is currently looking for bidders and has given few details on the number of companies that will be sold or the number of state workers that will be laid off.

As Greece sells assets and looks to create a more business-friendly environment, foreign investors are expressing interest. Perhaps the most successful example of privatization came last October, when Chinese shipping company COSCO started running one of the docks in Athens’s Pireaus port, the largest in southeastern Europe, on a 35-year, €3.4 billion ($4.1 billion) concession. The dock was formerly operated by the state port authority.

Sections of the Greek media hailed COSCO a redeemer for the Greek economy. “The Yuan Will Save Us,” ran one business newspaper’s headline.

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