State denies price blame

Even as a massive number of Greeks joined in yesterday’s nationwide boycott of retailers in protest against excessive price increases, the government continued to deny that utility rate hikes had partially contributed to inflationary pressures. Accusations that public enterprises had jacked up rates and thus helped fuel inflationary pressures «do not correspond to reality,» Economy and Finance Minister Nikos Christodoulakis said yesterday. He said the majority of the public utilities had offered «competitive rates,» underlining their deference to consumers. Utility charges contributed less than 0.1 of a percentage point to the inflation rate, he stressed. «From the beginning of the year, five of the public utilities adjusted charges in accordance with inflation. Only Olympic Airways and the Post Office increased their prices marginally above the inflation rate because of circumstances. OTE in turn cut its tariffs,» Christodoulakis said. The government’s defensive stand came as retailers and manufacturers, tired of being portrayed as price-gougers, sought to lay some of the blame for Greece’s above-average inflation on public utility hikes. Showing their anger at excessive price increases, millions of Greeks around the country yesterday responded to a one-day boycott called by the Institute of Consumer Protection (INKA) by staying away from shops. A third of Attica residents joined in the boycott, INKA said, based on a preliminary survey conducted at 4.30 in the evening, followed by 17 percent of residents in central Macedonia. Less than 10 percent of consumers in other parts of the country participated. Street markets bore the brunt of consumers’ anger, with revenues down by 85 percent. Food stores, supermarkets and shops also reported declines in sales of more than 70 percent. «On a monthly basis, inflation could reach 4 percent but even then you still get to 35 percent at the end of the year (for annual CPI),» said Debbie Orgill at ABN Amro in London.

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