The contentious move to privatise Greece’s largest port, Piraeus, as part of drastic efforts to right the finances of the Mediterranean nation, brought open discord within the government today, with shipping minister Theodoros Dritsas saying he was against the sell off to China Cosco Shipping, and even suggesting the deal could yet fall through.
As reported yesterday by Splash, China Cosco Shipping flew into Athens on Friday for a weekend of meetings with top officials including the Greek prime minister and president as China’s top maritime conglomerate sealed its takeover of Piraeus port in a deal worth up to EUR368.5m in the coming five years.
Having been feted however, Xu leaves Greece with some question marks still hanging over the acquisition, the single largest foreign direct investment into Greece ever.
Dritsas, the Greek shipping minister since last September, said today he disagreed with the sale, which has seen dockworkers strike repeatedly in recent months. Moreover, he hinted that the deal has yet to go through officially.
“There is still a lot to be done until the sale of the shares in June,” Dritsas said, attacking the body tasked with selling state assets.
“The sale of the port is done in order to satisfy the lenders, not development purposes,” he said, taking a swipe at the Hellenic Republic Asset Development Fund (HRADF).
“It (HRADF) operates as a state within a state. It is an authority that runs parallel to the government elected by the Greek people. We must restrict HRADF’s unacceptable operation,” he said.
HRADF’s contention that Chinese investment at the port would bring an extra 2,000 jobs was incorrect, Dritsas asserted – the extra manpower likely to come from subcontractors, he reckoned.
Dritsas also said he would create a new public authority port in Piraeus.
Other state assets including ports are likely to be auctioned soon.