Merchants say protests hurt business

Last week’s announcement by Public Order Minister Vyron Polydoras that he intends to draft a law preventing sparsely attended demonstrations from blocking traffic in the city center of Athens seems to have struck a chord with Athens merchants, who claim that during such marches sales drop by as much as 75 percent. Polydoras’s proposal, which echoes a demand by mayoral candidate Nikitas Kaklamanis – a former minister in Greece’s center-right government – has been denounced by left-wing parties, often the organizers of such marches, which usually end up outside Parliament, the US Embassy or some ministry. A survey conducted by the National Confederation of Greek Commerce (ESEE), the merchants’ association, shows that about five in eight merchants in the center of Athens would like to see the ministries relocated in the suburbs, as this government and its predecessors have promised. They see it as the only way to avoid the nuisances of frequent demonstrations, which, in many cases, degenerate into window smashing and looting by small bands of self-styled anarchists. One in eight merchants has suffered property damage after demonstrations, and this rises to 31 percent for shops located on Stadiou Street. «Conditions have deteriorated by at least 30 percent compared to our last survey in 2005, because the number of demonstrations has significantly increased,» ESEE President Dimitris Armenakis told Kathimerini. «The effects of these demonstrations are not limited to the time or the streets where these take place but affect the whole day and a far wider area, from Alexandras to Syngrou avenues. It is especially positive that the state, through Minister Polydoras, is responding to years of pleas by the business sector, shopkeepers, employees and the public in general to do something about the almost daily siege the capital’s center is subject to and the disruption of economic and social activity,» he added.

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