OPINION

Doing business, but with rules

Every sensible person would agree that the only way to kick-start Greece’s anemic economy is to open the way for healthy businesses – or at least to stop punishing them the way the state is doing now.

Every day we get to read stories about zombie companies that have managed to survive Greece’s financial crisis because they operate like ghosts. That is, they get away with not paying social security contributions or taxes and they can afford to bring their prices down to unreasonable levels. Faced with enterprises such as these, healthy competition – that is firms that fulfill their financial and tax obligations – are finding it impossible to survive.

The authorities must, at least, take some steps to deal with the extreme cases out there. Bankruptcy has been a tested method of rejuvenating capitalism. Unfortunately, this is something that we appear to have missed in this country and – again, unfortunately – judicial authorities do not seem to care as much as they should.

A company runs up big debts all over the place and then seeks protection from its creditors under Article 99. In the meantime, the cousin, a brother-in-law or some acquaintance opens up the same business or shop doing exactly the same thing. It is the perfect trick. They run up debts and still manage to operate as if nothing has happened.

Sure, I can put myself in the place of a competitor who is trying to make ends meet in the current economic environment. But nowhere in the developed world can a company afford to go bankrupt and then continue to operate under the same owners. Nor for that matter can a firm continue in the same business in a manner that defies all sense of transparency.

It is about time that we set some rules on entrepreneurship and the way the market operates in this country. The public sector was not the sole dysfunctional part of the Greek economy. Many private companies got used to behaving as if they were doing business in the Wild West – and they continue to want to do so.