Prying open closed professions

The government will likely have a draft law for opening up closed-shop professions ready by next week, while a privatization plan is also to be presented soon. The committee preparing the bill is focusing on the liberalization of six professions that are considered to be of high significance: lawyers, notaries, pharmacists, architects, engineers and certified accountants. In fact, the updated memorandum signed by Athens and its international creditors provides for the opening up of many more privileged professions out of the 160 that currently exist in Greece, which include estate agents, bakers, hairdressers, press distributors, electricians, taxi drivers and opticians, among others. The government is seriously considering the removal of a number of privileges enjoyed by other professions, the main one being the minimum payment for certain professionals. The memorandum does not explain specifically how the liberalization of the six professions will take place, but there is a clear statement about the distortions that will need to cease as far as pharmacists are concerned. The minimum profit margin for pharmacists will need to decline from 35 percent today to 15-20 percent. If this is not done directly, it will have to take place through other means, such as a system of discounts in drugstores for sales above a certain amount. Another obligation for the government by the end of this month will be to present its privatization program for 2011, as well as its general planning up to 2013, so as to cash in 7 billion euros. Tomorrow the government committee responsible for privatizations will meet and is likely to approve the commissioning of consultants for the Public Gas Corporation (DEPA), as well as offering guidelines for a series of other projects. The aim for 2011 is to add between 830 million and 1.085 billion euros to the public coffers. This revenue will come from the sale of 30 percent of DEPA, 49 percent of railway subsidiary company TRAINOSE, an extension of the contract with German firm Hochtief for Athens International Airport, the utilization of the broadcast frequency spectrum, the sale of 49 percent of the Mont Parnes casino on Mt Parnitha and the sale of four aircraft.

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