SYRIZA Opens Greek Professionals Monopolies, Pharmacists Furious

(Photo by Eurokinissi/Lydia Siori)

ATHENS – After reneging on campaign promises, the ruling Radical Left SYRIZA-led coalition now is speeding changes demanded by international creditors to break up the monopolies enjoyed by professions including pharmacists.

That comes almost eight years after a series of governments, including SYRIZA, sought what turned into three bailouts of 326 billion euros ($405.12 billion) in three bailouts and agreed to harsh austerity measures and other reforms in return.

The latest changes were approved the Parliament narrowly controlled by SYRIZA and its partner, the pro-austerity, marginal, jingoistic Independent Greeks (ANEL) that will open up other businesses ranging from dancing schools to road assistance, said media reports.

The laws now end a restriction that only people with a dance degree or 15 years’ experience as a dance teacher can be issued a license to open a dance school, even if just for amateurs and reducing the number of years experience required for hairdressers and manicurists and force road assistance firms to submit a series of records annually.

Engineers and lawyers haven’t come under the gun yet despite insistence by the creditors to provide for changes that would include competition and an end to guaranteed profits in professions notorious for tax evasion.

Non-pharmacists will now be able to open drug stores as long as a licensed pharmacist is always on duty, a reform the owners of pharmacies fiercely resisted.

The head of the greater Athens area (Attica prefecture) pharmacies’ association, Andreas Lourantos, told SKAI TV earlier that Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras broke his pledge to them and that the Premier had told him he would not allow companies or non-pharmacists to own drugstores, which is now required by law.

“Not one (chance) in a million,” was the phrase he claimed Tsipras used, similar to other language the Premier has used before reneging as well on issues such as pension cuts, the sale of state assets, taxes on low-and-middle-income families and saying he would not let banks foreclose on homes.

Most associations of pharmacy owners and pharmacists – all state licensed professionals – want to keep out super markets and other multinational retailers from selling prescribed medicines in the country.

Lourantos, among others, said the liberalization and letting pharmacies face competition, common in most other countries, would turn Greece into an East European country.