Most small businesses lack euros

Four out of every five small and medium-sized businesses have not equipped themselves with euros, which means that only about 50,000 of them will be able to begin using the single European currency at the beginning of the year, Economy and Finance Minister Nikos Christodoulakis said yesterday. «It would be a mistake to have an over-optimistic view that everything will operate like a well-oiled machine,» Christodoulakis told reporters. He said that while euro starter kits for citizens (which contain 14.67 euros, worth 5,000 drachmas) had almost sold out, there had been little demand for similar kits costing between 111 and 300 euros aimed at small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs). «We have distributed about 50,000 packets… while the number of SMEs is at least five times this. A lot of businesses did not want to tie up working capital,» Christodoulakis said. «This problem will be solved in the first few days of next year.» He predicted, however, that from January 2 professionals and traders will rush to banks to purchase euros. Banks, however, are presenting a picture of greater preparedness. By January 5, 100 percent of ATMs are expected to be providing bank notes in euros, while smaller banks will be able to provide all their ATMs with the currency from January 2. Indicative of the government’s concern with the switch is Prime Minister Costas Simitis’s appeal to business representatives yesterday not to raise prices, to keep in mind consumers’ worries, to display both drachma and euro prices and to round off prices. Christodoulakis urged people to call 198 if they have any questions regarding the euro.

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