Up until a few years ago, it was possible to buy a simple painkiller from any kiosk anywhere in Greece. Now, following the government’s most recent decisions concerning the sector, consumers will need to find an open pharmacy and shell out the 23.4 percent of the pharmacist’s cut of the profits so they can get a box of Aspirin.
First, of course, they need to find an open pharmacy, because the government is even negotiating with representatives of the sector over whether they should be open on Saturdays or not. This is so wrong. Business owners should be allowed to decide when they want to close. It is then up to consumers to take their business elsewhere. Meanwhile, supermarkets are open all through Saturday, so maybe they should have in-shop pharmacies staffed with a licensed pharmacist. This would not only provide jobs for thousands of unemployed graduates, but also a valuable service to consumers who are otherwise forced to run to and fro in search of a little pain relief.
The arguments presented by representatives of the pharmacists against the government’s plans to deregulate the sector are the stuff of jokes. The president of the Attica union, Costas Lourantos, argued that abolishing the right to bequeath a pharmacy license onto the next generation is wrong because "doctors do it, lawyers do it and so do all other scientists. Everyone hands over their business to their children when it is doing well." Sure, but young pharmacists will never be able to have a business unless they follow in a parent’s footsteps. Basically, young people study a science and then the state prohibits them from practicing it. People are fighting for their labor rights while ignoring the fact that closed sectors need to be opened up. But what is such a tragedy about this is that the government is effectively wrangling over fundamental civil rights such as the right to practice the profession you choose. While it shows no hesitation in slashing wages and pensions, it is being wary about measures that will boost growth.
Over a century ago, the great British politician David Lloyd George said, "Don’t be afraid to take a big step if one is indicated; you can’t cross a chasm in two small jumps.” Unfortunately, the government is trying to cross the chasm by standing still. By doing so, it will only allow itself to fall into the void: There will be no growth, consumers will continue to struggle to get services, healthcare funds will continue to pay overinflated prices for pharmaceuticals and, of course, even the labor groups will be disappointed because their cushy positions will be challenged by discussions over deregulation.
There is no other way for the government to go than radical deregulation. It must carry on with its plans even if for reasons of social equity alone. Pensioners and wage earners are paying for economic stability, so it is only fair for the closed shops to pay for economic growth.
ekathimerini.com, Thursday December 30, 2010