Athens Editor: Hijacking May Hurt Economic Plans / Visitor to City Says Greece Seeking Ways to Attract Foreign Investment

Article excerpt

For his own sake, Ioannis Marinos would have to consider himself fortunate at the timing of the TWA flight that was hijacked in Athens, Greece, about two weeks ago.

"I was scheduled to take that flight," said Marinos, director and editor of an economic magazine called "Economikos Tachydromos" in Athens. "However, because I was to receive first prize in a journalist competition, I had to postpone my trip to the next day."

For the sake of Greece, its economy and its relations with the United States, however, the hijacking was "unfortunate," Marinos said.

Marinos was in Oklahoma City this week during a journey to study the U.S. economy and the impact of economic policies and programs.

The timing was signficant, because the trip was planned long before the hijacking. The Marinos journey was a way for Greece to unofficially study potential changes in its socialist economic system by studying the effects of free enterprise.

Oklahoma was suggested by the U.S. State Department as a major stop in this study.

The timing of the hijacking was unfortunate, he said, because of the subtle changes that already were under way in the socialist government of Greece and its effort to improve the economy of Greece.

That, of course, was before the declaration of President Ronald Reagan that American tourists should avoid Greece, because Greece released three of the hijackers.

"I felt the climate was changing in the relations between our two countries," said Marinos. "I had the feeling, from talking to our ministers in Greece, that changes might be made in our country that would lead to economic talks.

"We need foreign investment. Our own capitalists are not large enough to improve our economy by themselves. If we can attract foreign investment, it is possible that our own investors might follow."

Tourism certainly is extremely important to Greece. The country attracts about 6 million tourists a year. That's more than half the population of 9.5 million in Greece.

In terms of money, tourism may bring in as much as $5 billion, Marinos said. That makes a major difference in the balance of payments in Greece. The country exports only about $4.5 billion in goods, while importing $12 billion.

"We hope the declaration of President Reagan will not hurt too much," he said. "We don't think it will, because this is the peak of the tourism season, and most people have made their plans."

However, the long-range problems of the Greek economy involve far more than tourists. The major industrial operations are owned by the socialist state. Unions are strong, and industry needs updating to compete in what Marinos called "the third industrial revolution" of the world.

Beyond that, Greece must import about 30 percent of its energy.

Foreign investment is needed to bring the Greek economy up to date, said Marinos, but attracting foreign investment is a delicate problem. It requires a profit motive and tax incentives for investors.

"Because we are a socialist state," he said, "we can't just say we were wrong all this time. One of our big questions is what we would do with the money if we attract it."

So, Greece is looking for ways to develop its own methods of incorporating free enterprise into the socialist state, something like the way the Peoples of Republic of China is seeking its own combination of free enterprise and Communism. …