By Yiorgos Karahalis
Mata Nikolarou, a jewellery shop owner in Athens, says she is not surprised that thousands of businesses in the capital have had to shut down.
“It was about time to happen. The market needed a clear off. Everyone in Greece had become a merchant, either by taking over their father’s shop or by taking out a cheap loan from the bank,” she said, explaining that most merchants had appeared out of the blue.
Almost a third of businesses and shops around the Greek capital have shut down over the last two years, as Greece’s crisis broke out and it agreed on a huge bailout package funded by the IMF and the European Union.
Mata’s little shop has been operating since 1998 but now stands alone between closed shops with rental signs on their windows. “When you do not respect your customers and your only aim is to make more money quickly by deceiving those who support you, then you will not survive” she told me. “I believe only the ones who really respect their jobs will stay open.”
Greece is now in its fifth year of recession, and the worsening situation has forced tens of thousands of small businesses to close. This adds more and more jobless people to one of the biggest unemployment rates in the European Union, at about 24 percent this year.