x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

Yes, Greece does have a deal for you

The Life: Greece is selling off property around the country to help with its debt problems.

The Parthenon is not for sale but other brickwork is. Yannis Behrakis / Reuters
The Parthenon is not for sale but other brickwork is. Yannis Behrakis / Reuters

It is not true, despite what you may have heard, that the Parthenon is for sale.

However, a wide array of more recent property in Greece may be coming on to the market as the country tries to reduce its huge debt load, estimated at €330 billion (Dh1.72 trillion). The potential fire sale has already inspired one wire service to use the obligatory headline "A big fat Greek real estate sale."

Facilities built for the 2004 Olympics, now sitting empty and unused, are available for sale, as well as a racetrack and tourist sites. Land on the fabled island of Rhodes suitable for a golf course is on the market, along with any patch of publicly owned land that might draw a buyer.

The government is compiling a list of public property in the hope of raising €50bn in the next four years. With few options for raising funds, the government has sent out a clear message: Let's make a deal.

One of most discussed properties is the site of the Hellenikon airport in Athens, closed in 2001, which has been for sale for years.

The site includes almost 70 hectares of coastal land that has reportedly attracted the interest of Qatar sovereign wealth funds contemplating a business district fashioned in the style of London's Canary Wharf. But plans for the airport site have stalled, which is why there is some scepticism about Greece's potential for raising money through property sales.

The development community may not be eager to dive into the country's notoriously complex property market. Building anything in the country is a slow and expensive process, complicated by layers of bureaucracy.

Any buyers will also have to deal with Greece's entrenched civil interests, including historical preservationists and labour unions, which can make any development a challenge.

There is also Greece's famously free-form approach to development.

"The absence of any land registry until a few years ago, and a widespread and often blatant disregard for building restrictions, have rendered some state-owned properties unsaleable," Reuters noted in a recent report.

But there is no denying the basic fact - Greece needs money. Pressure is mounting to make sales. Everything must go.

So if you're interested in a classic Greek landmark dating to 400BC with tall white columns and great views of Athens, this might be a good time to make an offer.

The Quote: "Private property began the instant somebody had a mind of his own." EE Cummings

kbrass@thenational.ae