Greece Starts Putting Island Land Up for Sale to Save Economy

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There’s little
that shouts "seriously rich" as much as a little island
in the sun to call your own. For Sir Richard Branson it is Neckar
in the Caribbean, the billionaire Barclay brothers prefer Brecqhou
in the Channel Islands, while Aristotle Onassis married Jackie Kennedy
on Skorpios, his Greek hideway.

Now Greece
is making it easier for the rich and famous to fulfill their dreams
by preparing to sell, or offering long-term leases on, some of its
6,000 sunkissed islands in a desperate attempt to repay its mountainous
debts.

The Guardian
has learned that an area in Mykonos, one of Greece’s top tourist
destinations, is one of the sites for sale. The area is one-third
owned by the government, which is looking for a buyer willing to
inject capital and develop a luxury tourism complex, according to
a source close to the negotiations.

Potential investors
also looking at property on the island of Rhodes, are mostly Russian
and Chinese. Investors in both countries are looking for a little
bit of the Mediterranean as holiday destinations for their increasingly
affluent populations. Roman Abramovich, the billionaire owner of
Chelsea football club, is among those understood to be interested,
although a spokesman denied he was about to invest.

Greece has
embarked on the desperate measures after being pushed into a €110bn
(£90bn) bailout by the EU and the IMF last month, following
a decade of overspending and after jittery investors raised borrowing
costs to unbearable levels.

The sale of
an island – or convincing a member of the international jet-set
to take on a long-term lease – would help to boost its coffers.
The Private Islands
website
lists 1,235-acre Nafsika, in the Ionian sea, on sale
for €15m. But others are on for less than €2m – less
than a townhouse in Mayfair or Chelsea. Some of the country’s numerous
islands are tiny which could barely fit a single sunbed.

Only 227 Greek
islands are populated and the decision to press ahead with potential
sales has also been driven by the inability of the state to develop
basic infrastructure, or police most of its islands. The hope is
that the sale or long-term lease of some islands will attract investment
that will generate jobs and taxable income.

Told by the
Guardian that such sales or leases were in prospect, Makis
Perdikaris, director of Greek Island Properties, said that he would
be unhappy at the prospect of any outright sale of state land: “I
am sad – selling off your islands or areas that belong to the
people of Greece should be used as the last resort,” he said. But
he was not necessarily against long-term leases: “The first thing
is to develop the economy and attract foreign domestic investment
to create the necessary infrastructure. The point is to get money.”

Read
the rest of the article

June
26, 2010

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