COMMENT

The cost of protests

By Angelos Stangos

From May 8, 2010, the day the Greek Parliament approved the memorandum of understanding and the country’s economy entered the international bailout program, until the end of March 2014, that is during a period of less than four years, the number of demonstrations and protest rallies that took place across Greece came to 20,210, out of which 6,266 were in Attica, mainly in the center of Athens.

These official figures were recently announced by Public Order Minister Nikos Dendias in response to a question tabled in Parliament by main leftist opposition SYRIZA.

Consider this: If you add to the above figure the number of demonstrations and rallies that have taken place since the end of March, the overall figure for those that happened during the four-year memorandum period might very well reach a total of 20,400.

This translates into 5,100 protest per year, or approximately 14 marches and rallies on a daily basis, including Sundays.

If you exclude Sundays, then the number of rallies rises to 16.3 for every working day, including Saturdays; it’s basic mathematics, after all.

It is quite possible that no other country – in Europe at least – has witnessed such a high frequency of these kind of activities, with people taking to the streets to protest against almost everything.

It is nearly impossible to figure out whether the total cost of this kind of behavior could ever be calculated, and if so fairly accurately, given that a large number of rallies and demonstrations go hand in hand with walkouts and strikes, causing delays which are then translated into lost working hours for third parties and at the same time often do not allow access to businesses located in city centers, particularly Athens, leading to an even greater loss in revenues, not to mention the cost of covering the damages caused by certain protesters as well as the cost of mobilizing police forces.

The right to protest in a democracy remains undisputed. And no one could ever disregard the effects of the financial crisis – which have hit other European countries as well.

The point is, however, that the kind of excess and lawlessness that is endemic to Greece creates major obstacles when it comes to the country’s ability to recover. Seen from this perspective, it’s a miracle that economic activity manages to keep on going in the country.

Online