Friday 14 September 2012

Sell or lease?

Greece may lease some of its sovereign islands to help pay the bills:
As international inspectors in Athens scrutinise the country’s fitness to receive the latest aid payment, Prime Minister Antonis Samaras has said commercial exploitation of some islands could generate the revenue lenders need to see to continue funding the country.

The shortlist includes islands ranging in size from 500,000 square meters (5.4 million square feet) to 3 million square meters, and which can be developed into high-end integrated tourist resorts under leases lasting 30 years to 50 years, Mr Taprantzis said.

Legislation needs to be passed to allow development of public property by third parties and reduce the number of building, environmental and zoning permits needed before the plan can proceed, Taprantzis said.

Outright sales have been ruled out because the returns for the Greek state wouldn’t be higher than a leasehold arrangement, he said. Greece will attract more investment if an island is turned into a resort, he said.
I believe the explanations later in the story that complete sales would be politically difficult. But I sure don't believe that leasing out the islands would raise as much as selling them. As I'd written back in March:
Greece has somewhere around 6000 islands in one of the most beautiful parts of the world. Islands of legends and Greek Gods and stuff. Islands that, you'd expect, would be worth something to somebody. Some of them are privately owned and do trade. Here's one place you can go to buy one.

But all those islands are encumbered with Greek sovereignty. Own the island, own the  entanglements of the Greek state that make development, well, hard.
First of all, to date it is rather hard for someone to develop a private island because of the Greek state bureaucracy and the domestic Archeological Agency, which is stringent in its examination of every case that involves an island that may have antiquities of any kind lurking under its soil. 
And that's just for setting up the island as a holiday home. If you have to provide a stool sample to get through the regs letting you set up a web-based business, a Greek Island isn't going to be your first pick for doing anything innovative.

Imagine being able to bid on an island in the middle of the Mediterranean within a short flight of Europe, the mid-East, and northern Africa where Greece wouldn't just hand you title, they'd hand you sovereignty? There has to be a ton of value locked up in those islands that could be released by Greece being willing to relinquish sovereignty. Restrict it to the uninhabited islands to keep things simple, for starters.

Seasteading is cool. But imagine kickstarting it by letting a thousand sovereign islands bloom in the Aegean Sea? 
Leasing out islands with fewer regulatory encumbrances adds some value where the regulatory abatement is credible. But hasn't recent experience suggested that bare-land Greece would be worth more under alternative ownership?

No comments:

Post a Comment