Dimitrios Mandilaras participates in the IR Global Guide – The Middle East & North Africa: A dynamic region for inward & outward investment

Dimitrios Mandilaras

Partner, ARGO Audit Ltd

Foreword by Andrew Chilvers

The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region is a hugely diverse cultural and geographical mix that stretches from Morocco in northwest Africa to Iran in Southwest Asia.

The region is home to a range of economies with vastly different levels of openness to international trade and investment. But with the help of international organisations such as the OECD and IMF, along with local and foreign investment, much of the region has started to make giant strides in economic development in recent years.

Despite the Covid-19 pandemic that resulted in negative growth of 3.8% for 2020, most analysts agree the region continues to offer ideal opportunities for businesses and investors going forward. Indeed, with the pandemic starting to ease, an estimated $4.1 trillion of projects are planned or underway in many countries across the region as they continue to diversify and expand their economies.

Moreover, to ease the stress on local companies while offering incentives to foreign investors, most MENA countries recently announced a series of fiscal stimulus packages including tax payment reductions and loan guarantees for businesses. These moves have been popular inside and outside the region for encouraging investment and many analysts predict growth increasing to as much as 3.1% for the region in 2021.

Nevertheless, this uptick in economic growth depends on several factors including the ongoing success of the Covid-19 vaccine rollout across the region and the stabilising of oil and gas prices. Furthermore, if geopolitical tensions continue to stabilise, many believe oil exports will recover to 1.8% for 2021 and this will be supported by the resumption of large-scale capital investment projects that were largely put on hold during 2020.

Starting a business in/out of MENA: How easy is it for entrepreneurs and businesses in/out of MENA to start a business in your jurisdiction? How can you help smooth the process for your clients and overcome common pitfalls?

The procedure for starting a business in Greece is easy and our company can assist its clients, since we are very experienced in that.

The steps are;

• Choose the type of the company or branch (we have already prepared a list with the advantages and disadvantages of each case).

• The legal representative needs to obtain a Greek Tax Identity Number and a Greek Tax Representative (a person from our side could be).

• The company needs to obtain a permit to use its business name (we are doing that on behalf of our clients).

• The company needs to prepare its Articles of Association (we can prepare that, even without a Notary, if a regular format is used to reduce the cost).

• Registration in the Greek Public Registry (Articles of Association, Certificate of Good Standing, Decision of the BoD, Proxy, Acceptance of the legal representative, proxy etc). All of them need APOSTILA, legal translations in Greek and proxy to our accountants to do the procedure (we have prepared the list of the documentation needed and the format of the Proxys that our accountants need to do the procedure)

• Bookkeeping, accounting, tax, payroll, financial statements, reporting.

We can assist clients in all of the above with educated, experienced and skilful accountants at university degree level. We are highly experienced to set up a business in Greece.

What are the key recent developments your clients should be aware of when investing in/out of the MENA region to your jurisdiction? What grants and incentives are available to overseas investors?

The best way for me to emphasise the value of investing in Greece is to list the highlights.

• Greeks are highly educated (most of them with University degrees), English speaking, so it’s very easy for companies to find skilful and highly educated staff.

• There is little bureaucracy when setting up a company.

• The tax system is computerised and most of the tax returns are filed electronically.

• Greece is expecting to have a large GPD after almost 10 years of financial crisis.

• Our jurisdiction is friendly with potential investors.

• EU countries do not pay tax on dividends.

• Greece is applying reasonable income tax rates and we expect they will drop in the next few years, after the pandemic.

• Greece has signed contracts to avoid double taxation with most countries.

• We are members of the EU and the eurozone, meaning a common currency, and legislation that complies with European Directives giving stability etc.

• Last, but not least, it’s beautiful country with fine weather and summer for almost six months a year; good food and a good life.

What are the latest trends shaping business growth and creating opportunities in MENA for clients in your jurisdiction? What markets offer the most stability and growth and where would you advise your clients to invest?

The biggest area for any investment in Greece is tourism and all of the activities related to that. Consequently, the business opportunities mostly include;

a) Hotel accommodation and restaurants,

b) Water planes,

c) Energy based in the photovoltaic systems and wind farms,

d) IT systems for the Public and Private sector,

e) IT engineers working remotely with reasonable fees,

f) Infrastructure for the State (IT, big highways, metro, trains etc) and the Private sector,

g) Agriculture in special products and packing,

h) Construction for buildings and apartments.

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