ECONOMY

Purchase power a worry for SMEs

The shrinking of Greeks’ purchasing power is the biggest problem small and medium-sized enterprises are facing in this country, according to the European Observatory. Greek companies in this sector, just like those in the rest of Europe, are placing consumers’ lack of purchasing power on the top of their list of problems, at a 77 percent rate. This becomes even greater in the domains of construction (96.8 percent), transport (91.2 percent), manufacturing (86.9 percent) and other business activities (84.2 percent). It is in trade that the rate is lower (71.3 percent), but remains far above the European average (53 percent). Manufacturers and traders put part of the blame on the government: «It is contributing to this through the decisions that take their toll on people’s incomes, such as the irrational increases in value-added tax, utility bill hikes and policies favoring superstores,» said the General Confederation of Greek Small Businesses and Traders (GSEVEE). Other significant problems include the lack of appropriately skilled personnel (57 percent) and of infrastructure (48 percent, against 23 percent in the EU). There has been no significant change in the situation for Greek entrepreneurs over the last two years. Most businesspeople say things have remained unchanged, except for the loss of purchasing power and the higher cost of employment. The only category with a relative improvement is that of quality management. Greek SMEs that have a subsidiary abroad or belong to a foreign consortium reach 6 percent, compared with an EU average of 5 percent. The countries in which they are most active are Germany, France, Italy and the United Kingdom. Finally, the portion of Greek SME owners who consider the common currency in the eurozone important is 66 percent, above the eurozone average (56