OPINION

Protected markets

The reactionary forces that hold the economy to ransom are spread throughout society. It’s not just the state sector union groups reacting to privatizations. It’s also the closed interest groups that counter government attempts to deregulate markets that have so far been in the hands of monopolies or oligopolies. Like the unions, they too are happy with the way things are. I often hear industrialists, businessmen and hoteliers pompously slamming the government’s failure to entice foreign investment and bolster growth. But whenever a local or foreign company plans to make a big investment, the old ones instantly request government protection on the grounds that the market has no room for fresh competition. After receiving more than 50 million euros in government subsidies to refurbish their hotels in Athens and Thessaloniki, they are now fuming at proposed legislation subsidizing the construction of countryside hotels as well as five-star hotels in Greece’s two biggest cities. Greece’s future depends largely on tourism. And yet the big shots that made fortunes thanks to state subsidies – i.e. taxpayer money – demand that the government block access to certain markets that they deem their own property. Similarly, bakers protest plans to allow supermarkets to make bread on their premises. Economic growth comes with the creation of new businesses and high-tech investment, but these presuppose free access for newcomers to all sectors. Protected markets are the biggest obstacle to economic progress. Tourism Minister Fanni Palli-Petralia should not give in to the demands of major hoteliers but instead launch an information campaign and invite all big hotel chains that will attract new and wealthy tourists. State pampering seems to have spoiled the old hotel players, who now fear the competition.