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Investors Pressure Government for New Golf Legislation

A group of foreign real estate developers recently formed an association that aims to pressure government to revamp a golf course development law. The president of the Association of Foreign Investors in Tourism, Clemente Pinedo, says foreign investors thus far have steered clear of the country’s tourism sector because of its notorious bureaucracy and conflicting laws.

The eight real estate developers of the association, which include investors from Australia, Belgium, Switzerland and the UK, say they could invest as much as 3.5 billion euros if the Greek government would implement the long-delayed golf course development bill.

Government has said that its tourism policy includes the creation of a golf investment law that would sweep away bureaucratic obstacles. The association says that such legislation must not only concentrate on the development of a golf course but also on the associated hotel and residential developments necessary to make a golf course development viable. In Spain, which has 15 to 20 new projects a year, approval for a golf course typically takes 18 months, according to Mr. Pinedo. In Greece, where there is no single law that covers both golf course development and the associated real estate development, approval takes as long as 10 years, he says.

He also feels that developers face a strong anti-golf lobby here that sees the game as elitist and damaging to the environment. Water consumption, for example, is a big concern in the dry, Mediterranean country. A recent report by environmental group WWF says that an 18-hole golf course consumes as much water in a year as a town of 11,000 people.

Mr. Pinedo, however, says that new technology means golf greens can be watered with seawater, desalinated water or recycled water, either from nearby towns or the development itself.

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