Greece’s land records problem

The New York Times has published an article on enormous problems with Greece’s land records: Suzanne Daley, Who Owns This Land? In Greece, Who Knows?

Here are excerpts:

In this age of satellite imagery, digital records and the instantaneous exchange of information, most of Greece’s land transaction records are still handwritten in ledgers, logged in by last names. No lot numbers. No clarity on boundaries or zoning. No obvious way to tell whether two people, or 10, have registered ownership of the same property.

As Greece tries to claw its way out of an economic crisis of historic proportions, one that has left 60 percent of young people without jobs, many experts cite the lack of a proper land registry as one of the biggest impediments to progress. It scares off foreign investors; makes it hard for the state to privatize its assets, as it has promised to do in exchange for bailout money; and makes it virtually impossible to collect property taxes. […]

The courts in Greece are flooded with … cases [regarding land record disputes]. “These things take years,” he said, “maybe a decade to settle.”

This state of affairs is particularly galling because Greece has thrown hundreds of millions of dollars at the problem over the past two decades, but has little to show for it. At one point, in the early 1990s, Greece took more than $100 million from the European Union to build a registry. But after seeing what was accomplished, the European Union demanded its money back. […]

For more details, please see the complete article.

This case furnishes a poignant example of how flaws in certain legal information systems can lead to adverse social consequences.

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