In 2009 Greece was on one of its deepest and saddest point ever. It had sold half of its government organisations like the transport company OSE, the telephone company OTE and many many more. It had even sold quite some islands to billionaires like King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands. Still it wasn’t enough and so the port in Pireaus, next to the capital of Athens, had to go down as well. And even after that the country sank even deeper until in 2019 finally a business government took place in the Athenian Parliament called Voulí: Nea Dimokratía with Kyriakos Mitsotakis as Prime Minister.
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China and Greece working together in Piraeus’ port
Mitsotakis finally succeeded in decreasing by more than 90% the immense catastrophical immigration to the Greek islands from Turkey and Syria and he started building up the port in Piraeus. It is the second largest port in the Mediterranean, after Valencia in Spain and the largest and deepest port in the eastern Mediterranean, as well as situated on a key point between the Suez Canal, the Black Sea, Africa, Southern, Central and Western Europe. Three continents! So it is definitely a place with an enormous potential, only that in the hands of the Greek government it wasn’t exploited like it should.
Far too many people worked there with too high salaries and too many rights and it wasn’t well organised. As I said earlier: both words chaos and systima are Greek. We just had to go from chaos to systima and the Chinese helped us a bit, while earning themselves too. In 2009 Greece leased Dock 2 and 3 of the three docks the port possesses to China for 35 years. in 2012 the first growth of the port was already achieved, so in 2016 China’s state company Cosco bought 51% of the port and became its main owner. In 2020 Cosco bought another 16% of the port – 67% all together. The Greek government holds 7.14% of the shares and the last 25.86% is in hands of non-institutional investors.
So what does Greece earn from Piraeus port since it started growing again after decades? Well, first of all Greece shares in the turnover, which was €194 million in 2022. Then, because of enormously raised activity in both goods and passengers’ transport, it earns also from import and export rights, people who buy stuff at the shops on the ships or in the port and so on. If we compare Piraeus port to Rotterdam port which has an annual turnover of €825 million, we see there is still a lot more potential in Greece.
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What are other growing revenues in Greece?
Well, years ago I remember Greece took the decision to focus on more qualitative tourism instead of getting zillions of lusty European women, who only want a Greek man or families who only want sun and sea, but without paying for it. The country has been attracting more American tourists, who often go on cruises and cultural tourists, who come to see the beauty of our ancient treasures. And of course a lot of Greek tourism, which is the main profit factor for tourism in Greece. Revenues in 2019 were €38 billion and in 2022 only €18 billion. No country can live on so little money. Tourism isn’t the main source of income in Greece.
Total export in Greece brought €57 billion into the country, but the imports were €97 billion. So also export isn’t really a source of income for Greece. What does help, is the fact that the unemployment rate fell from 28% to 11%. That means the state needs to give less allocations and subsidies to civilians and they also have more to spend. Inflation rates are falling as well after the Covid crisis. According to Worlddata.info the inflation rate from 1960 to 2022 was on an average of 8%. Well I remember years in the nineties when it was a 100% or even more. The last 10-15 years it was about 1.5% per year, but in 2022 in the whole of Europe and also in Greece a bit more than 9% (9.65% in Greece). In 2023 it hangs around the 3% until April, so even that is going forward.
The EU and the Chinese Belt & Road Initiative (BRI)
The funniest thing is that you can nowhere find the exact turnover or revenues that Greece itself had from Piraeus port. I think that might be because first of all it isn’t that much yet, but also because the EU doesn’t like it at all when European countries cooperate with the Chinese and maybe the Greek authorities are reluctant to publish too much about it. Did you actually know the official name of the project is Silk Road Economic Belt? The Chinese call it One Belt, One Road or short OBOR or 一带一路; in Chinese (pronounced as Yidai Yilu).
Look at Italy. It had formally joined the BRI and now needed to renew the contract. Well, Ursula from Brussels is sitting on top of Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni to force her to quit the programme. Italy came in enormous financial problems after adopting the euro and can’t recover from it, whatever the country tries. So a nice cooperation with China would be the great idea to recover from the fall, but both the European Union and the United States aren’t going to let that happen. Italy feels it is forced to only trade with them in the false hope to ever one day get out of the economic abyss that way. Yet Greece isn’t a formal member of the BRI, so maybe Italy can find a construction as well so that it can profit from the very effective Chinese support, without angering the west too much.
As you see it isn’t that simple to hoist a country out of a difficult financial situation. But whoever wants something, will find a way and this also applies for countries like Greece and Italy that have been struggling for decades to straighten their economies. They can just say to Brussels and Washington that their help didn’t only get them further, that it was on the contrary the very cause of their downfall. Then they can’t ban Italy from doing business with other coutries that do help them out of the mud. If Greece can do it, so can Italy. They have the first thing which is needed: a capable government.
- Al Jazeera, How did Greece go from bankruptcy to economic growth? (Video on YouTube)
- A Bright Shared Future (Chinese state website), The Dreams Come True
- Wikipedia, The port of Piraeus
- China CEEC (China Cooperation with European Countries), Piraeus port revenues 2022
- Hellenic Shipping News, Greece’s Chinese run Piraeus port hits record profit for 2021
- Bejing Seetao Culture Media, Rebirth of Piraeus port drives Greek economic recovery
- E-Kathimeriní, Mitsotakis: Cosco in Piraeus port is a win-win project
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