Four words that will make you a millionaire in Croatia – open a petrol station! Yes, the price of oil on the world market may be falling, and yes more and more people are making the switch to electric cars, but it isn’t petrol and diesel that you are going to make your fortune on, it’s bread.
So as anyone with half a brain could foresee the new law this year of Sunday working (or rather non-working) and the ban on working on public holidays is proving to be an utter disaster. This would have been the easiest prediction for Nostradamus to make ever.
We seem to have this constant sadomasochist desire to make things much harder than they should be.
Around 20 percent of the country’s GDP comes from tourism and a further 10 percent comes from the retail trade. Meaning a third of GDP is being seriously squeezed.
So from the 14 national annual holidays 8 are in the tourist season, and out of 26 Sundays shops are allowed to open for 16 of them. That is a huge amount of money being kept behind locked doors.
Do we think we are Switzerland? Well, the Swiss also mostly close shops on Sunday, but then again their annual GDP is $800 billion, or around 11 times more than Croatia’s annual GDP. The Brits, on the other hand, with a GDP of over $3 trillion allow their shops to open on Sundays.
“We just want to buy some bread, cheese and ham to make sandwiches,” explained one English family to me, looking confused why nothing was open.
Are we really competitive? Or are we once again shooting ourselves in the foot? We talk about wanting to extend the season, but in reality we shorten it. Who is mad here?!? If you don’t want to work on Sundays, then don’t work in tourism. You get enough time off in the winter anyway.
As you can probably guess I am not against Sunday working, as long as employees are correctly compensated for their work and have a free day through the week. Now, I may be wrong but the idea of closing on holidays and Sundays was that people could have more time to relax and be with their families. The reality is stress levels are through the roof and queues outside petrol stations stretch endlessly.
Photo - Bozo Radic / CROPIX
Yes, we know why the government passed this “self-harm” law, to appease the church. Well, more specifically to appease the huge voting pool of the church. In other words, self-harm for self-preservation. A kind of thinking that only makes sense in politics.
Unfortunately, this short-sighted logic affects us all. We’ve got to explain to tourists why they can’t spend their money on certain days (or even eat) and why we are standing in the baking sun with our children hoping that the petrol station sells nappies or tampons, and of course bread.
And next year could, no will, but much worse. Our tourist season roughly starts every year at Easter. Meaning that the opening of the season will be marked with two days of “closed” signs hanging off restaurants, shops and bars. Madness!
We’ve just seen what happened when our tourism industry can’t work, two years of tightening our belts. But did we learn? No.
Either we are being extremely generous and letting our competition earn money or incredibly stupid.
Rough calculations show that Croatian businesses will lose around 50 million euro a day during the days that they are forced to close. That’s a tidy sum, but think the amount of VAT the country letting flow down the plughole. We are acting like Switzerland with the economy of Somalia!
It appears that Napoleon Bonaparte was right when he said “In politics stupidity is not a handicap.”
So, open a petrol station and make hay whilst the sun shines.
Read more Englishman in Dubrovnik…well, if you really want to
About the author
Mark Thomas (aka Englez u Dubrovniku) is the editor of The Dubrovnik Times. He was born and educated in the UK and moved to live in Dubrovnik in 1998. He works across a whole range of media, from a daily radio show to TV and in print. Thomas is fluent in Croatian and this column is available in Croatia on the website – Dubrovnik Vjesnik