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MNI INTERVIEW: Biz Investment Still Risky, Says Greek ICC Head

MNI (London)
--ICC-Hellas Head Points To 'Uncertainties' Over Economic Situation
--Says Investing In Country Is Risky, Despite Opportunities
--However, Some Optimistic Signs Over Outlook
By Jean Comte
     ATHENS (MNI) - Risks and uncertainties remain across the Greek economy,
despite the recent upswing, holding back corporate investment, the head of a
leading Greek business lobby told Market News in an interview, although there is
now some light at the end of the tunnel.
     "The situation is much better than in mid-2015, when we reached the bottom
of the economic crisis," Nicolas Vernicos, chairman of the Greek committee of
the International Chamber of Commerce said.
     "(But) Investing in Greece is a risk," he said. "There are opportunities
and it is possible to earn good returns, but that involves taking risks".
     The Greek crisis gained strength in 2015, when the newly-elected Syriza
party broke away from the economic adjustment programme agreed with the EU
institutions and the IMF, before agreeing to a new memorandum of understanding a
few months later.
     But Vernicos, who also chairs a large family-run shipping group, told MNI
that Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras remains under pressure from left-wing
political groups who are resisting the implementation of the new memorandum of
     "Everything depends on Tsipras' capabilities -- he could still go
off-track," Vernicos said.
     The ICC-Hellas head also said there was a lack of competency on Syriza's
team, which he believed has "no experience" and is "too ideological".
Uncertainties also crop up from the oft-changing fiscal framework, with "two
(new) fiscal laws every month," Vernicos said.
     Asked about opportunities for international companies, he described a mixed
picture. The overall picture is improving, but there are still high-profile
cases of company closures, he noted.
     Nestle, for one, recently decided to shut down its Athens-based ice-cream
factory, something that Vernicos attributed to a lack of demand and the closure
of most of its retail distributors.
     Vernicos's tone as he notes the ongoing risks for business investment
contrasts with the more optimistic stance put forward by the various EU
institutions, who have taken to praising the resurgence of the Greek economy and
the success of the adjustment program.
     "The recovery is expected to restart this year," the EU Commission said in
May, pointing to a set of positive data: GDP growth above 2%, a 22% decline in
unemployment and a 0.7% fiscal surplus in 2016. As a symbolic step, the EU last
week closed Athens's excessive deficit procedure, which had been open since
     "I am optimistic," Vernicos said when asked about the difference in the
points of view. "It cannot get worse, so it has to get better".
--MNI Brussels Bureau; +44 203-865-3851; email:
--MNI London Bureau; tel: +44 203-586-2225; email:
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MNI London Bureau | +44 203-865-3812 |

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