OPINION

Over-reaction

The application of rules that have been on the books for many years in most European countries is often regarded, paradoxically, as no less than a revolution when the time comes to enforce them in Greece. It may be a revolution of the self-evident, but implementation of such rules often stirs up opposition and agitation. The friction sparked by the amendment extending store hours by one hour a day and two hours on Saturday was typical. This adjustment of shop working hours has triggered widespread objections, as some people believe that it will harm small shops that cannot withstand the competition that generally favors larger stores. However, in most European countries, shopping hours have been completely freed up without running smaller shops out of business. Small and large stores coexist, of course, in all countries, each retaining their own marketing advantages. But European economy and society enjoy the fruits of prosperity brought about by new investment, the creation of new jobs and the possibility of serving greater numbers of consumers. Besides, commerce and profit ultimately serve consumers, not just storeowners or employees. The Greek economy has been held back for many years by artificial distortions that were created long ago to protect the interests of certain socio-economic classes from the tough realities of the marketplace. These, however, led only to unemployment and even impoverishment of part of the population. Another major contributing factor has been the woeful lack of investment, especially outside the capital and in the provinces, where youth unemployment remains distressingly high. The same parliamentary bill paves the way for greater EU support for commercial enterprises. For the first time, it is generally recognized that commercial activity demands heavy and ongoing investment if it is to survive and prosper, and so this will be funded more generously by EU monies. This change may seem equally self-evident, but it too was not previously on offer. Extending store hours is one of the important innovations that the government has attempted after putting an end to permanent appointments at the Hellenic Telecommunications Organization (OTE) and streamlining banks’ social insurance funds. All of these changes have prompted complaints and strikes among interested parties, but they are also self-evidently necessary if the Greek economy is to become more competitive than hitherto.