OPINION

Exorbitant municipal taxes

The statistics about municipal taxes on companies which the Athens Chamber of Commerce and Industry (EBEA) have made public have raised the dual issue of how heavy those taxes are and how excessive the increases in them have been over the past two years. Annual municipal taxes amount to 8.96 euros per square meter and in some areas have risen 158 percent over the past two years. Such charges would be described as exorbitant if they were imposed by the central government and profiteering if imposed by a private agency. So far, however, local government organizations (OTA) have enjoyed immunity from public scrutiny and criticism. EBEA’s announcement marks the first step toward a serious discussion of OTA finances. It is a fact that many municipalities are strapped for cash and must meet huge needs, but they must not do so at the expense of small and mid-sized businesses and national competitiveness. Unfortunately, many local elected officials deal with finances solely in one part of the budget. Instead of cutting superfluous expenditures, they raise taxes excessively to fill municipal coffers so that they can later (usually after the elections) spread them around. Local government must practice what we all demand from the central government. Before demanding 1 euro more, whether from the state or local residents, it must tidy up its own finances and convince us that they are being managed usefully and transparently.