Greece Conflicted Over Privatization of Piraeus
Greece’s Economy Minister George Stathakis on Wednesday said that he expected an agreement with Greece’s euro zone partners and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) by next week on a package of reforms submitted to help unlock remaining bailout funds.
The country is merely weeks away from going bankrupt, and the euro zone and IMF have frozen support funds until Greece implements reforms. According to the Financial Times, the country’s current financial needs are up to 19 billion euros.
"We sent a new document today to the Brussels Group (of EU/IMF lenders) which is more specific and quantified," a Greek finance ministry official told reporters. Among the list of proposed reforms, revenue of 1.5 billion euros in privatization from the lease of 14 airports and the sale of the Piraeus port was included.
The port, located a few miles off the coast of Athens, is the hub of Greece’s giant shipping industry and one of the largest ports in the Mediterranean. Piraeus is one of the top ten container ports in Europe employees over 1,500 who service more than 24,000 ships annually.
However, Stathakis stated that the Greek government had no intentions of selling its 67 percent stake in the port but would instead seek a joint venture with investors. This contradicted the deputy prime minister’s statement last week during his visit to China that Athens would sell its majority stake in Piraeus Port. China’s Cosco Group is already an investor and has been short-listed for the sale along with four other companies.
A payment to the IMF of about 430 million euros due on April 9 is shaping up to be the next financial test for Greece, which is already resorting to last-ditch measures like borrowing from state entities to tide it through the cash crunch.