This poor guy in Greece, Fotis Antonopoulos, tried to supplement his income by setting up an Internet-based business selling olive products. And that’s when his trouble began:
It took him 10 months — crisscrossing the city to collect dozens of forms and stamps of approval, including proof that he was up to date on his pension contributions — before he could get started. But even that was not enough. In perhaps the strangest twist of all, his board members were required by the Health Department to submit lung X-rays — and stool samples — since this was a food company.
“I laugh about it now,” he said. “But it wouldn’t be so funny if I didn’t have a very good job with very good pay. It would have been an absolute nightmare.”
With Greece’s economy entering its fourth year of recession, its entrepreneurs are eager to reverse a frightening tide. Last year, at least 68,000 small and medium-size businesses closed in Greece; nearly 135,000 jobs associated with them vanished. Predictions for 2012 are also bleak.
But despite the government’s repeated promises to improve things, the climate for doing business here remains abysmal.
Antonopoulos tells the NYT that his experience is absolutely typical of what faces entrepreneurs in Greece today. Get this:
The worst moment, he said, was when representatives from two agencies came to inspect the shop and disagreed about the legality of a circular staircase. They walked out telling him that he “would have to figure it out.”
Meanwhile, resourceful and desperate Greeks in one impoverished town are sick and tired of their government, and are creating a cashless economy. Excerpt:
Choupis said there was a new mood abroad in Greece, a determination to “move beyond anger to creativity”.
“You are not poor when you have no money,” she said, “you are poor when you have nothing to offer – except for the elderly and the sick, to whom we should all be offering.”