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Our View: Lack of reason set to triumph in shop hours fracas

EVERY new proposal deputies come up with for Sunday shopping is more absurd than the previous one. The latest compromise, which was put forward by DIKO’s Angelos Votsis and has the support of the opposition parties, proposes that all shops close on Sunday except those in Ayia Napa, Protaras, Polis and Latchi, on the grounds that shops in these parts opened only for a limited number of months every year. The rest would all be closed.

AKEL’s proposal for the re-introduction of the idiotic ‘tourist zones’ which arbitrarily separated towns into tourist and non-tourist areas and allowed shops in the former to open on Sundays was rejected by most of the parties. Patriotic consideration however gave rise to the proposal that shops in the old part of Nicosia were exempt so that tourists did not cross north to shop on Sunday, which would be tantamount to declaring old Nicosia a tourist area.

These are the basic principles of the bill, which has also been given a Soviet dimension, as deputies have been trying to define what type of shops would be able to stay open on Sunday. For instance there was talk that ‘souvenir shops’ would stay open but deputies would have to define what these shops would be allowed to sell; convenience stores would be allowed to open if their floor space was less than an area to be decided by deputies. And deputies would also decide what each type of shop that opened on Sunday would be allowed to sell.

Defending his proposal, Votsis argued that his main concern was to protect family life. But his bill would not be safeguarding the family life of people who worked in bakeries, convenience stores and ‘souvenir shops’ on Sundays, not to mention those who worked in shops in Ayia Napa and Latchi. As for convenience stores – family businesses run by members of the family – they would be open on Sunday in all towns and family life would be dealt a fatal blow.

The DIKO proposal also envisages shops staying open until 9pm six days a week so that the thousands of people who would lose their Sunday jobs would be employed on weekdays. This is just wishful thinking as big supermarkets are unlikely to have the volume of business at night-time to justify hiring extra staff. Then again this, like the claim about protecting family life, is part of the misinformation campaign of the opposition parties which want to hide the real reasons for their Soviet-type retail bill – protecting the interests of convenience stores and bakeries which would see their turnover increase as a direct result of Sunday closing.

And for a few thousand votes, opposition parties are prepared to put an end to a practice that has created jobs and been embraced by consumers and re-introduce direct political intervention in the operation of the retail market. Lack of reason always seems to triumph when the parties decide to tackle an issue they have no business interfering in.

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