Greek islands up for sale?

CorfuLISA ARNS/AP/Press Association Images

From the first moment that Greece announced the onset of a debt crisis, there were those touting the sale of a Greek island or two as a solution. Now the prime minister, Antonis Samaras, appears to agree. He told a French newspaper yesterday that Greece could consider leasing a number of islands for companies to use.

So how will it work, and could you be the owner of your own Greek island?

The crisis

The idea is part of Greece's desperate attempt to show the world that it is serious about addressing its massive debts. After almost £200 billion in bailouts from the IMF and other eurozone countries, it is facing its last chance to cling onto eurozone membership.

Leasing islands would be one of the least painful changes that are expected to see state support dramatically reduced for all sectors of society.

How will it work?

It's safe to say that the project is still in the nascent stages. It was floated in an interview with the French newspaper, Le Monde, when Samaras said: "On condition that no national security problem is posed, some of the islands could be used commercially."

This doesn't mean that Corfu is up for grabs. There are 6,000 islands around the coast, and rather than flogging off the well-known and successful tourist destinations, the idea would be to rent out the uninhabited ones for commercial firms to exploit for profit.

He explained: "It would not be a case of getting rid of the islands, but of transforming unused terrain into capital that can generate revenue, for a fair price."

International investors are expected to take an island for a decade or so, build a hotel or a number of exclusive villas (and property for the employees), develop the beach and a few roads, arrange transport to and from - either by ferry, taxi or helicopter, and sell packages to tourists.

What will it cost?

The prime minister stopped short of suggesting how much it might cost to lease an Island. Although it's safe to assume that the cost of developing it could run into the tens of millions of pounds if they plan to build a hotel and a number of houses - plus all the infrastructure they would need. It's clearly, therefore, something for the major property developer and the travel multinational rather than the private buyer.

If you want your own island, however, it isn't necessarily beyond your reach (assuming you have a few million to spare). Private Island magazine is currently advertising a huge range of deserted islands. You could get a 23 acre property off the coast of Queensland - complete with remote island property - for just under £4.5 million.

Alternatively you could opt for a 2.5 acre family island in Florida with a land bridge to the mainland, and a private pool and waterfall. That's a snip at just under £3.8 million.

Or, if you have your eye on Greece, you can already buy a big chunk of the uninhabited St Thomas Island, part of the Diapori chain. You can get 50 acres of the 300 acre uninhabited island for £9.5 million - and you wouldn't have to give it back.
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