The peculiar perceptions that dominated during the crisis forced GROWTHFUND to function more-or-less with a very typical approach in the first years of its establishment.
In the sixth year since its establishment, the GROWTHFUND finds itself at a new starting point. Its multi-level operation has two objectives: its greater contribution to the country’s short-term objectives for growth and safeguarding the long-term interests of future generations by multiplying the value of public property and protecting natural resources.
This is not, of course, a change in GROWTHFUND’s philosophy, as its founding law is oriented towards increasing the value of public property, improving the services that public companies provide to citizens, and protecting the environment. However, as is well known, all this was just a story on paper, since the peculiar perceptions that dominated during the crisis forced GROWTHFUND to function more-or-less “in name alone” in the first years of its establishment.
As of 2021, with the gradual return to normalcy, as is the case in many other public fields, the came also for GROWTHFUND to enter a new era. Since then it has exercised its role systematically, responsibly and consistently. It has worked closely with the management teams of all companies in its portfolio, assuming the role of active shareholder, adopting best governance practices, developing international partnerships with similar funds around the world. It has placed responsibility towards future generations high on the agenda and has entered the battle against climate change by joining President Macron’s One Planet Sovereign Wealth Funds initiative. And it has also intervened whenever it deemed that something fell under its remit, which is focused on public interest, as this is clearly dictated by its role as an active shareholder of public property, which is solely owned by the Greek people. Sometimes symbolically, as was the case of a planned metro strike on a day of the university entrance exams…
If 2021 was the first year in which GROWTHFUND became visible, 2022, this year, is a milestone in its operation, as the implementation of its ambitious strategic plan for years 2022-2024 begins, along with its first ever investment activity. Essentially, its qualitative change is signified through its upgrade to a National Investment Fund, which will have a positive impact on the country’s development effort, the recovery of the economy, and attracting foreign investments.
With direct investments of over 50 million euros in the 2022-2024 three-year period, with the improvement of dividends to the State by 60% (compared to the previous three years), the increase of the assets value by 15% until 2024, and with a total contribution of 85 million to the Public Investment Program, GROWTHFUND has begun exercising its role as an active shareholder and investor in the Greek economy, and its transformation into a major growth factor. It also aims to stabilise its profitability at over 30% and to streamline operating costs.
The implementation of its ambitious three-year strategic plan until 2024 begins, along with its first ever investment activity.
The task it is called upon to perform is not an easy one. Development of public property has been an unsolved issue for decades and to a great extent the State’s real estate is still uncharted. It is perhaps the company’s greatest challenge and that is why it has been set as an absolute priority. There is optimism that with the pilot program for the registration of 1000 properties being launched by HPPC (ETAD) and digitization within the next year, this pending issue will be closed. Furthermore, the total valuation of public property will also be largely completed over the current three-year period. At the same time, a number of important projects are being launched (restarting of the Corinth Canal with upgrades, completion of the preparation for the tender of the Kalamata airport and the gradual completion of the development designs for the remaining 22 airports, the new more efficient Coordination Mechanism of compensation with the aim of reducing grants for Athens Public Transport, new services for citizens-customers of HCAP companies, etc.).
The guidelines underlying the GROWTHFUND’s strategic plan and the goals it sets through specific metrics (sustainable development, increase in public property, reduction in carbon emissions, corporate governance principles, inclusion) are in line with a modern democratic outlook and serve the public interest in an absolute manner. It is precisely for this reason and because the GROWTHFUND is by nature sworn to neutrality, the manner in which it is often treated in public discourse surprises, having little to do with its true role.
The example of other countries which have established similar National Funds on their own initiative is instructive enough.
GROWTHFUND, the National Fund of Greec, manages public property to give it greater value for coming generations, with initiatives taken today. It aims at better public enterprises with better quality services for citizens and, in any case, it does not sell off. It invests.
* Mr Gregory D. Dimitriadis is the CEO and an executive member of the GROWTHFUND BoD