Minister now asks for market help in fighting inflation

The Ministry of Development is now trying a different tack in its efforts to curb rising prices. Having tried, through Deputy Ministry Kimon Koulouris, to coax and coerce producers and retailers into keeping a lid on prices, Minister Akis Tsochadzopoulos is now placing greater emphasis on boosting competition. Tsochadzopoulos yesterday presided over a meeting that brought together producers (the Federation of Greek Industries, the Federation of Greek Food Industries, as well as farmers’ cooperatives), retailers (the supermarkets’ and retailers’ associations), unionists and consumer organizations. He revealed his intention to set up a forum next month of all these organizations that would meet at regular intervals to discuss the situation in the markets and propose remedies to any market imbalances. He also called for proposals which, he said, will be discussed in 10 separate meetings Tsochadzopoulos will have with each organization, or groups of organizations, involved. «It must be made clear that we do not control and we do not set prices,» Tsochadzopoulos said, adding, «We, like the companies and consumers, are interest in setting up a more mature operation of the market, which, after all, is the only way to get the expected result,» that is, lower inflation. In recent days, the Development Ministry appears to have realized that, despite certain successes – such as the pledges by a number of retailers and producers to freeze prices until the end of the year – the government’s tactic of pressuring for lower prices was too risky because it had helped bring to the fore animosities among all the groups involved. The industrialists had turned on the government and the retailers; retailers attacked producers and small retailers attacked the big supermarket chains. Earlier this week, Koulouris, after a meeting with large multinationals that produce high-selling consumer products, had said he did not wish to play «the markets’ cop.» Tsochadzopoulos further outlined a series of measures aimed at helping consumers. Within the next 10 days, he said, he will submit a draft law creating an independent monitoring body for the insurance market. He also announced the creation of a «Consumers’ Ombudsman» to act upon complaints and the upgrade of already existing services, such as the Prices Observatory, which monitors price discrepancies among retailers and is another source of information to consumers. Tsochadzopoulos added that the economy needs every side’s efforts to achieve real convergence with Greece’s European Union partners, adding that he thought the economy, the fastest-growing in the EU, is fundamentally sound.

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