Cyprus Mail
CM Regular Columnist Opinion

A breakdown of shop opening hour lunacy

By Loucas Charalambous

THE RIDICULOUS legislation about Sunday shopping voted in by the opposition parties came as no surprise. We have known these politicians for years and they are ruthless demagogues. This is what they have always been and they will never change. There are parliamentary elections next year and we have a lot to see until then. The hunt for votes is the only thing that motivates them.

They said the aim of the law was the safeguarding of the interests of small businesses. The only thing they did not consider was the most important – the interest of consumers. Common sense would suggest that this should be the only interest that should be served by any measure related to the market. Everything else is of secondary importance.

I will leave aside the fact that the problem of small businesses is not the opening hours. The problem is that until 2013, we had five times more shops than we needed. Inevitably, at some point, most of them would close down. And this happened with the collapse of the banking sector when shops could not stay afloat through continuous borrowing. Healthy businesses survived and are doing well today.

What had our political demagogues actually decided with the legislation they passed? In effect they decided that on Sundays, people who needed to buy water would have to buy it from kiosks at double the price of a supermarket. I mention water because it is an indicative example. This was voted by AKEL, the party which pretends that it is the protector of the poor and the weak. The law was prepared by DIKO deputy Angelos Votsis because he was pressured by two or three of his Limassol friends who had decided that their business interests were harmed by shops opening on Sundays.

I was not exaggerating in describing the legislation as ridiculous. Take for instance the provision stipulating a maximum floor space of 150 square metres for a shop to be eligible to stay open on Sundays in certain areas. So, in the same road a shop with a floor space of 150 square metre would be open on Sunday, while one next door would have to stay closed because it has a floor space of 152 square metres. I think it would be difficult to find so much condensed stupidity in any other legislature of the world, not even in North Korea which executed its defence minister because he dozed off during a public event.

Even more stupid was the main argument used by Votsis and several other wise deputies that the social fabric was in danger of being destroyed by Sunday shopping because many workers would not be at the family table for Sunday lunch. I am certain if they brought in a lunatic to support the bill in the legislature, he would not have used such an idiotic argument. As many have observed, by this logic, all the people who have been working on Sundays for the last couple of years would have broken families.

The lunatic law voted extended shop opening hours to 9pm for six days of the week. So shop workers who until now were getting off work at 7pm, would have to keep working until 9pm. By the time they closed the tills, tidied up, closed the doors and went to the bus stop or the parking space to their cars and drive home it would probably be 10pm. The rest of the family would have eaten by then and instead of being absent from the family table only on Sunday they would be absent six days a week.

In this way, the social fabric would stay intact. According to the wisdom of our legislators, it would only be ruined if workers do not have lunch with their family on Sunday. Such stupidity and irrationality can only be found in the legislature. And then we expect the legislature, a legislature full of political clowns – perhaps worse than those sitting in Greece’s parliament – to tackle much more difficult and serious problems, like the Cyprus issue. How naive is that?

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