On rounding off

Less than a month has passed since the prime minister, in an unexpectedly generous gesture, announced that with the replacement of the drachma by the euro currency, prices will be rounded down to the benefit of consumers. In order to make sure that the prime minister’s promise would not prove to be just empty words – as usually happens – the government and market representatives signed goodwill agreements, producing mass enthusiasm. The only result, however, was to postpone cases of profiteering by an entire week. What was the purpose of those oaths of self-restraint and legal fidelity, then? But, of course, the answer is that it is more pleasant to breach and ridicule an agreement than to profiteer due to mere force of habit or in keeping with the old Greek saying that trade knows no bounds. It is easier to square the circle than to round down the profit-making impetus. Government officials ought to be aware of this. They should also be aware, through their own experience, that gentlemen’s agreements have roughly the same binding force as «contracts with the people,» (as the PASOK of old used to say). In effect, and despite their concern for music and dance, they should suspect that there will be successive «precautionary» increases in the prices of various goods before the historic moment when the drachma finally retires. This rounding-up of prices will have the same value as 10 or 20 zeros added after the decimal point. Still, it’s better late than never. The awakened state mechanism has decided to put profiteers on a blacklist and prosecute them, in an effort to protect consumers. It is certain that once this measure is introduced, the market will display the requisite self-restraint and will contribute, with a high sense of responsibility, to a smooth transition to the new monetary era. Besides, it won’t be the first time.