ECONOMY

CPI pressure from services, fresh produce

On the second day of a four-day consumer boycott of fresh farm produce, the government said that it had noted profiteering in this sector and private services. Deputy Development Minister Christos Theodorou visited a Pangrati street produce market with a team of inspectors yesterday and noted that prices were about the same as Monday’s. He said that retailers and wholesalers found to be selling produce at unjustified prices would be sent to the prosecutor’s office. The president of Greece’s industrialists stressed that industries had done their bit to try keep inflation in check and that the problem was elsewhere. «Comparing the consumer price index with the wholesale price index we see that industry has helped contain inflation, given that from the beginning of the year increases in wholesale prices are significantly behind the consumer price index,» Federation of Greek Industries President Odysseas Kyriakopoulos said. «We believe that the battle against inflation must continue, mainly by liberating the market, increasing competition and through the functioning of the Competition Committee, and not through additional measures to contain prices – which, in any case, is not the government’s intention.» High prices have alarmed the government, because of popular anger in the runup to local elections on October 13 and because of the pressure on inflation. «We have seen anomalous development in prices in some sectors and products,» Development Minister Akis Tsochadzopoulos said after a meeting with Prime Minister Costas Simitis. «Our aim is to bring down inflation from 4.0-4.2 percent at the beginning of the year, because of the damage done to fresh produce by bad weather, to 3 percent by the end of the year. So far, we have brought it down to 3.3 percent and we hope that in September, despite the fact that schools have opened, it will stay at the same level and that from then on we will take it downward, so that we can meet our target,» he said. «Despite all this, we have noted behavior and practices, mainly in the fresh produce sector and secondly in the private services sector, that the development is not normal, with unjustified price increases,» Tsochadzopoulos added. «We have started a systematic effort to deal with this, with continual inspections, by using the Competition Committee, while the food supervision committee (EFET) is inspecting the quality and safety of foodstuffs.» Tsochadzopoulos said that it was the government’s aim «to smash the limiting or profiteering functioning of certain centers that are exploiting the weaknesses stemming from the opening of the market.» The Cabinet will discuss this tomorrow, he said. NEC CI is aiming for a 3-4 percent market share in the professional and PC markets in the next three years.