If the idea is to use the proceeds of these privatizations for repaying debt (which I believe it is), then I would enter a wager that these privatizations will not happen. Certainly not as long as Greece remains in the Euro-limbo. At the same time, I explain below why they should happen and how.
If the government proceeds as planned/committed, there will be mass demonstrations every time a privatization comes up. The battle cry will be: “We cannot sell state assets now because we may need them if and when we exit the Euro!” A rather convincing battle cry. How the government will withstand those battle cries escapes my imagination at present.
Having said this, I reaffirm my conviction that privatizations, in principle, are the route to pursue. My principle argument is know-how transfer. Even though some of these companies may perform quite well now, there is no question in my mind that they would all benefit significantly from the know-how which a new owner brings.
Thus, the critical decision is to choose the right new owner. It’s easy to describe what a wrong new owner would look like. Examples: a financial investor who is aiming at short-term returns; a multinational who is exclusively interested in buying market share; etc.
The ‘right’ owner would be an owner who has a commitment to Greece as a location for doing business in the country and, possibly, to use Greece as a hub for the Eastern Mediterranean region. Thus, the ‘right’ owner would not only lay out money for the acquisition but, above all, he would commit to substantial new investments going forward. The experience with the Chinese company Cosco and the port of Piraeus comes to mind.
Whenever the state tenders a company for privatization, the rules of the tender and the criteria for selection must be published. I would suggest that the top criteria should be ‘the right owner’ with a clear definition of what is meant by that.
Now to the proceeds of the privatizations and I begin with the example of the German state of Bavaria. About 30 years ago, Bavaria was considered as the Southern fun and beer loving state which required transfers from the North to support the living standard of Bavarians. Then, the Bavarian government took a historic decision whose consequences can be witnessed all over Bavaria today. The state sold assets on a massive scale. However, instead of ‘spending’ the sales proceeds, the money was invested into making Bavaria competitive: research & development, education at all levels, clusters for future-oriented technologies and industries, etc. etc. And, incidentally, Bavaria is still fund and beer loving!
Today, Bavaria is probably Germany’s most successful state and the largest contributor to the domestic transfer system in Germany. Bavaria’s educational system is considered the best in Germany. R&D centers exist all over the state. Clusters for future-oriented industries are in place. Some entirely new industries are now settled in Bavaria (e. g. aerospace). Etc. etc.
This could be a role model for what Greece should do with privatization proceeds. Greece’s creditors will not allow that? Well, that depends. If the state were to re-invest funds in similar fashion as the state has invested in the past, then one certainly should not allow that. However, it should not be too complicated to find a structure where the decisions to re-invest are supervised by invididuals/institutions which can assure that the Bavarian model is followed (and not the Greek model repeated).
If, and this is the million-Euro-assumption, if it could be warranted that Greece would follow the Baravian model for re-investing sales proceeds from privatizations, the creditors would be foolish not to support that. A strong Greece in the future could pay back a lot more debt than a bankrupt Greece can now!