June 6 - A switch from the euro back to the drachma would be a ''catastrophe'' for just about everyone, says citizens and business owners in Athens. Joel Flynn reports.
It may have felt like an uphill stuggle. Tsirikos Bikes is one of the few business in Athens to have negotiated the rocky economy well. But now even this small business is starting to see the wheels come off. As Greek look with trepidation towards elections on June 17, what is worrying Vassilis Tsirikos, the shop's owner, is a possible return to the drachma, the country's old currency. (SOUNDBITE) (Greek) VASSILIS TSIRIKOS, OWNER OF TSIRIKOS BIKES, SAYING: "I can't imagine what this scenario with the drachma will mean for us in the bicycle business. We have Greek products we could sell, but I imagine it will be very expensive and very difficult to import bicycles from abroad, which even now there is difficulty because despite this difficult time of uncertainty the merchandise has to be pre-paid. We could order them, pre-pay them, but we won't know if we will be able to sell them afterwards at this new price if the currency changes to the drachma." And Tsirikos is not the only one. Many analysts have said a return to the drachma would be catastrophic for the economy, dramatically and adversely affecting imports, exports, bank deposits, loans and prices. Changing back to the old currency would devalue savings and decrease wages, whilst increasing prices on both loan payments and goods. Spiros Batsios says it's not difficult to see how quickly debt could spiral out of control. (SOUNDBITE) (Greek) SPIROS BATSIOS, 47, COURT CLERK, SAYING: "I don't have any bank deposits so I am not afraid of losing them. I own my house fortunately so I don't have to get a loan, but if I had to get a loan I would be frightened. Imagine what will happen to those people that have taken out a loan in euros if we go to the drachma, I am sure we can just imagine." The election is fast approaching. The rise of a far-left party that opposes the austerity measures demanded by EU and IMF creditors has made the prospect of Greece leaving the euro uncomfortably realistic. The popularity of bicycles increased in Athens as residents downgraded from cars. But with the return of the drachma, even bicycles could become a luxury. Joel Flynn, Reuters