COVID19: One in ten businesses forced to shut down

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More than one in ten small businesses (13%) were forced to shut down during 16 months of coronavirus restrictions and lockdowns.

Shopkeepers still withstanding the hits delivered by the pandemic are calling for more support from the government.

In comments to news site Stockwatch, the general secretary of POVEK small shopkeepers’ association, Stephanos Koursaris, said most businesses closing were already in financial trouble pre-COVID-19, but the pandemic delivered the finishing touch.

Koursaris commented following a meeting with Commerce Minister Natasa Pilides and representatives of the Hellenic Confederation of Professionals, Craftsmen & Merchants.

He said that the sides had the opportunity to compare support measures introduced in Greece and Cyprus, concluding that state support is vital for the months ahead.

“State support measures should remain in place for as long as the economic consequences of the pandemic last in order for businesses to be able to survive and recover,” said Koursaris.

He said many small businesses rely on the continuation of benefits from the Labour Ministry to keep employees.

“A large number of companies have seen their turnover decreased dramatically; in some cases, the drop in revenues has reached 90%.

“It is vital that the Labour Ministry keeps supporting these companies.”

Shopkeepers are disappointed with the government’s reluctance to offer a helping hand to those who cannot afford to pay their rent at a time when revenues have hit rock bottom.

“In Greece, the state in 2020 had covered 40% of shopkeeper’s rents, while this year the government raised the sponsorship to 80%, calling on owners to shoulder the remaining 20%.”

Koursaris explained that rents are shopkeepers’ biggest operational expense, and they need state help to keep going.

Shopkeepers want the government to postpone payments and contributions to state coffers, such as VAT, social insurance premiums for their employees and income tax.

Koursaris said that while all SMEs are in financial turmoil, businesses in tourist areas are hurting more, while nightclubs and event organisers have also suffered as they were forced to close for more than a year.