Deregulation ahead?

The government must be bolder and faster in opening markets and lifting regulations that only serve narrow interests and drag economic activity down, Deputy Development Minister Yiannis Papathanassiou told Kathimerini in an interview published yesterday. Any such measures will be applied after the Olympic Games, Papathanassiou says, adding that the government is determined to go ahead in order to free the domestic market from what he calls the tyranny of regulations and state interventions on behalf of small interest groups. The actions Papathanassiou intends to undertake post-Olympics include the liberalization of private school fees, extension of shops’ hours and the abolition of regulations that undermine competitiveness. A former president of the Athens Chamber of Commerce and Industry (EBEA), Papathanassiou has consistently argued that deregulation is the answer if we want faster growth and lower inflation. After his appointment as deputy minister last March he kept arguing, in the face of rising prices and phenomena of profiteering, that no massive intervention was needed. He has since been forced to backtrack, promising to apply the full force of the law to those service providers or retailers found to be overcharging during the Olympics. But, as he made it clear to Kathimerini, the end of the Olympics provides an opportunity for a new beginning. On shop opening hours, Papathanassiou wants to impose a uniform minimum opening hour schedule throughout the country, allowing local authorities only to expand, not restrict, hours. He wants to begin deregulation with the smaller shops. He adds, however, that he will seek retailers’ opinions before going ahead. The deputy minister also promised a change in the pricing of medicines that will provide a boost to local production. Papathanassiou wants to abolish certain regulations which, he claims, help maintain «crazy» situations. For example, an industrial firm can provide a bus to transport its personnel but not a commercial one. Car rental firms can provide a car but not a driver. Papathanassiou believes that, in general, the Greek market needs to overcome inertia and become more competitive. Only then will consumers be able to buy better goods and cheaper services, he said.