ECONOMY

Greeks embrace euro

Some 73 percent of Greeks carry out their transactions principally in euros while 94.2 percent of the population have conducted dealings using the single currency, the government said yesterday, one month after the launch of the euro in physical form. A government-commissioned survey conducted by Metron Analysis, which has tracked the progress of the changeover, found that seven in 10 Greeks use the euro as their chief trading currency. Nine in 10 had handled the single currency as of the end of January. Underlining the widespread acceptance of the euro in Greece, the study showed that 74.3 percent of Greeks are in favor of the new currency as legal tender while the percentage of those opposing the change are slowly declining, amounting to just 15.1 percent of those surveyed. One in two Greeks also said they believed the euro will reinforce the country both economically and politically and also help create a common European identity. Referring to price gouging, the survey said the phenomenon is weather-related and has little to do with the euro, despite a feeling among Greeks to the contrary. Price increases since the launch of the euro at the beginning of the year have been observed principally in foodstuffs and entertainment. The rash of price hikes is expected to push up inflation in January. Consumer prices shot up to 3 percent last December on the back of weather-related food price increases. January consumer price inflation is due out this coming Friday. The survey interviewed 5,526 people between January 2 and 5 and from January 7 to 30. Bank of Greece statistics showed that the euro constituted 76 percent of the currency in circulation at the end of January, while 75 percent of drachma banknotes and coins have already been withdrawn from the market. With the changeover practically a done deal, it is time now for Greece to focus its energies on the next big issue, which is social convergence, Premier Costas Simitis announced yesterday. «We must accelerate our efforts and take advantage of the opportunities in front of us,» he said. He urged businesses to restructure their operations and to look outward to foreign markets.