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Carols, commerce and taxes

By Nikos Konstandaras

Children went into the streets again this year to sing carols with the same concerns they have every year: Where’s my triangle? Will it rain? Will people open their doors? Over the past few years, the clothes kids wear have changed, as most conform to globalization’s level of coolness. But the tradition of caroling door-to-door is not about begging, but about the exchange between the hope personified by children and the gratitude of adults for the blessing of their visit. Even in the crisis, most Greeks’ children live in a world of prosperity which no one could have imagined a few decades ago. But the children also know that much has changed.

Beyond the difficulties that each of us is facing, the New Year allows us to see how things have changed around us. And this is why children also asked themselves another question this year: Will the shopowners in the neighborhood give me anything? They understand a problem that is at the heart of the Greek crisis – retail turnover is dropping constantly and businesses’ capital base is shrinking. Figures released for the holiday period confirm this, again. According to Vassilis Korkidis, president of the National Confederation of Hellenic Commerce, turnover this holiday season came to 6.8 billion euros. “It may have been 10 percent below what it was in 2012, but this is a good number when compared to the reduction in consumers’ incomes over the same period, which was at least 32 percent,” Korkidis said on Thursday.

Throughout 2013, retail companies saw their sales drop by 10.5 percent and their gross profits by 13.4 percent, Korkidis added. This is because the parents, uncles, aunts, grandparents, other relatives and friends of the children are trying to get by on increasingly less money while paying more taxes. Kathimerini reported on January 1 that the Christmas bonuses of one additional salary given to some private sector workers who are still entitled to this was equivalent to the amount paid in taxes in the past few days. According to banks’ estimates, the additional amount of 1.5 billion euros that was deposited in payroll accounts last month went to the payment of taxes. Installments for the property tax of 2011, 2012 and 2013, together with payments for the 2014 road tax, came to about 1.5 million euros, which was mainly paid in the last few days of last year, Kathimerini’s report said. In short, this means the money received in bonuses enabled workers to pay their taxes.

If we add to this that ELSTAT announced the average reduction in salaries from 2008 to the present has been above 25 percent (while unemployment stands at 28 percent), we have to ask ourselves how anyone can believe that Greeks’ incomes should be cut further. It is salaries and pensions that are propping Greeks up, keeping commerce alive and paying taxes. They are what allows us to hope that next year when the kids go out to sing carols they will not find a very different world.

ekathimerini.com , Friday Jan 3, 2014 (17:33)  
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