Minister heralds crackdown on prices, cartels

Development Minister Costis Hatzidakis on Friday expressed the government's commitment to breaking up cartels and lowering prices, noting that a series of measures set out in a report by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) would boost competition and social policy.

In comments to Skai radio, Hatzidakis said his aim was to reduce prices of daily staples to enable crisis-hit households to make ends meet. This would be the government's «most essential social policy,» he said.

Dozens of policy recommendations for lifting restrictions to competition are set out in the OECD report, which troika officials have pressed the government to enforce. Hatzidakis described the OECD'S «toolkit» as «a way of tackling legalized cartels.»

The minister highlighted milk prices in particular, noting that Greece has the third highest price for this staple in Europe and noting that the existing system of production and distribution «puts pressure on the cost which raises the price."

He estimated that milk prices could be reduced by up to 20 percent through the implementation of the OECD's proposed measures.

Prescription medicines are another problem area, he said, noting that prices in Greece are 27.6 percent higher than in European Union member states that have deprived pharmacies of the exclusive right to sell the drugs.