Greek PM suggests selling or leasing unused isles to generate revenue

Greek prime minister Antonis Samaras, who will take his plea for more time for the Greek economy to Paris and Berlin this week, has suggested his government could sell or lease some of the country’s islands to help revive a state-asset sales plan central to receiving international funds.

He told Le Monde newspaper that uninhabited Greek islands could be used to generate revenue, responding to a question on whether Greece would sell some of its islands.

“On condition that it doesn’t pose a national security problem, some of the isles could be used commercially,” Mr Samaras said as quoted by the newspaper.

“It would not be a case of getting rid of the isles, but of transforming unused terrain into capital that can generate revenue, for a fair price.”

Mr Samaras vowed to speed up asset sales and structural revamping such as changes to labour markets after meeting yesterday with Luxembourg’s prime minister Jean-Claude Juncker, who heads the group of eurozone finance ministers.

Greece is behind on money-raising targets tied to €240bn of rescue packages in the past two years. Mr Samaras will meet with German chancellor Angela Merkel tomorrow in Berlin and French President François Hollande in Paris a day later.

Selling public land is a politically sensitive issue in Greece. A proposal by members of the troika, who represent the European Commission, the ECB, and the IMF, to increase revenue from asset sales including property drew opposition from the then-premier George Papandreou, who said in 2011 he would legislate to prohibit such sales.

In 1996, Greece and Turkey almost went to war over who owned the uninhabited islet of Imia in the Aegean.

The Greek state is seeking €50bn from state-asset sales by 2020 to meet the conditions of its bailout, half from company-stakes sales and half from property. So far it has only brought in about €1.8bn.

— Bloomberg


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