OPINION

Market liberalization

The great upheaval in the market caused by the rise in petrol prices has subsided. After the Olympic Games, when gratuitous price hikes and widespread profiteering will have eased off, the time will be right for introducing measures to liberalize the market and to abolish anachronistic restrictions which are hampering economic activity. Sources say that Deputy Development Minister Yiannis Papathanassiou is examining the whole spectrum of restrictions stifling the Greek market – ranging from major issues such as store opening hours and the determination of prices, to more specific matters affecting individual sectors, where certain embargoes thrive despite being absurd and outdated. Papathanassiou explained that the measures would be examined by a team of experts following discussions with traders’ associations. In any case, the message being communicated by the minister – in broad outline – is that market liberalization should be carried out swiftly and boldly in order to rationalize the institutional framework, which is currently suffocated by special reforms and exceptions, and to allow transacting parties to develop their potential. Promoting the need for such measures, Papathanassiou stressed that administrative restrictions on prices and operating conditions are often artificially by-passed, so that instead of prices being controlled, we are seeing even more price distortions and profiteering. Not only is this reasoning correct, but it has been shown to be realistic. There have been countless examples of price restrictions being ignored – as is often the case with private schools which increase their fees via «collateral charges.» Elsewhere, these restrictions prevent the development and modernization of businesses which no longer have any motivation to improve themselves. Looking at the final «balance sheet,» we rarely see any medium-term benefit for consumers, while the national economy usually sees nothing but losses. In its attempt to erase these anachronistic restrictions, the government should bear in mind our country’s shortcomings as regards competitive conditions – the reason for spiraling profiteering. In conclusion, if we are to eradicate the mass of market restrictions, we should first crack down on those who adulterate and curtail free competition. If we succeed in doing this, we will put a stop to profiteering.