ECONOMY

Gov’t firm on cash till bill, says impact will be small

The government said yesterday that it does not plan to repeal legislation requiring small-goods traders at street markets to use cash tills with effect from next year, even as it characterized an ongoing strike by street market producers and traders in protest at the move as «irrational.» The ruling on the obligatory use of cash machines affects only 4 percent of the street market community, Development Minister Akis Tsochadzopoulos said, namely those selling clothes, shoes and household products. «There are a total of 8,564 street market vendors nationwide and out of this, only 356 are traders,» he said. He said the ongoing strike staged by the entire community for a small segment is «irrational and inconsistent,» especially as the protest comes three months after Parliament had passed the controversial legislation. The government does not intend to extend the cash till ruling to fruit and vegetable producers in the future nor would it withdraw the legislation, he said. The Finance Ministry introduced the controversial ruling earlier this year in an attempt to stamp out illegal trade and tax evasion. It is also expected to create a more level playing ground between street traders and shopkeepers. Street market vendors launched an indefinite strike on Monday after failing to get the Finance Ministry to repeal the cash machine ruling. Yesterday, they continued to block highways leading to Athens for the second day, stopping trucks loaded with fresh produce from proceeding to the capital. The Athens News Agency reported a minor incident during which protesters pursued a truck which had refused to stop at the roadblock. The truck driver allegedly pulled a knife on one of the protesters after they smashed his windscreen. He was subsequently arrested. Tsochadzopoulos said the government meanwhile was ready to hold talks with street market vendors on improving the institutional framework governing the market. The first meeting is scheduled for Friday. He said municipalities were preparing to respond to one of the principal grouses of street market vendors by reviewing licenses given out to the community to see if there had been abuses. Yesterday was also the first day the Development Ministry issued a price list for the different categories of gasoline and diesel sold at the 1,200 gas stations in Athens, Piraeus and Thessaloniki. To be published twice a week, the price list is accessible at the ministry’s website (www.ypan.gr) and in selected newspapers. The price list will cover all gas stations throughout the country as from January 1, 2003. The ministry said publication of a gas price list would let consumers know which gas stations offer the best deals in their area. It is also expected to intensify competition among the stations.