ECONOMY

Majority of Greeks fear euro fraud

Ordinary Greeks appear to have serious doubts about the euro, with an overwhelming majority of them concerned about the impact of the new currency on their lives and fearing they may fall victim to fraudsters, a survey commissioned by the National Economy Ministry found. Eighty-four percent of the 1,200 respondents in the survey conducted by research firm ICAP between August 29 to September 5 said that the euro will make everyday life more difficult, while 75 percent predicted an increase in fraud and exploitation. Greeks’ fears over the implications of the euro contrast sharply with the official view of the advantages to be derived from the single currency. Speaking after a Cabinet meeting on the switchover to the new currency on January 1, 2002, Prime Minister Costas Simitis said the euro will reinforce the economy and boost employment. This [the switch to the euro] is not just a change in currency. It will lead to a change in perception which will also affect the economy, he stressed, and called for the event to be seen as a new, strong beginning. Greece will be sharing a single currency with 11 other European Union member states starting in January. An estimated 700 million drachma banknotes and 7,000 tons of drachma coins will be withdrawn from circulation, to be replaced by some 600 million euro banknotes and 8,300 tons of euro coins by year-end. During the dual circulation period from January 1 to February 28, 2002, euro banknotes and coins will circulate in tandem with drachma banknotes and coins. The National Economy Ministry survey also found that 57 percent of the public know about the launch date for the euro, and 47 percent are aware of the conversion rate of one euro to 340.75 drachmas. This was an improvement from a study carried out in March. The government, for its part, has taken all the appropriate legislative and organizational steps to ensure a smooth switchover while making sure that the public will not be short-changed, National Economy Minister Yiannos Papantoniou said yesterday at the presentation of the euro survey. We have instructed ministries and public enterprises not to raise tariffs, prices and fines during the transitional period, he said. The private sector also played its part, with the signing of a memorandum with the Development Ministry on Monday. Members of the Federation of Supermarkets and the Federation of the Hellenic Food Industries agreed not to jack up prices during the switchover to the euro. Retailers and manufacturers also toed the line. The National Economy Ministry plans to intensify its campaign to familiarize the public with the new currency. The second phase of the operation, which will cover the second half of the year, has been budgeted at 3 million euros, up from 2.6 million in the first stage.