Inflation culprits named

Development Minister Akis Tsochadzopoulos yesterday reiterated the government’s plans to use a carrot-and-stick approach to get fruit and vegetable producers and the service sector to rein in their prices while denying that the country has an inflation problem. Tsochadzopoulos said inflation was less of a problem than had been made out. He said that headline inflation had actually gone down when comparing last month’s inflation rate with the figure posted in July last year. On above-average harmonized inflation, he said it pointed to a convergence with eurozone averages. Furthermore, Greece’s high growth rate meant higher demand would bring about a hike in prices. Tsochadzopoulos said the jump in prices also had to do with the role played by agricultural producers and the private sector, with price increases in both areas sharply exceeding the spike in the consumer price index. «The problem is rooted in the behavior of both sectors and that is why we are pushing for an institutional intervention to deal with the problem,» he said. Tsochadzopoulos said the government aims to take measures to check price increases while also holding dialogue with all participants. One proposal will see the competition committee play a more active role in stamping out unfair practices. Another calls for a price list regarding the production and distribution of agricultural products to be drawn up. The National Food Inspection Unit will intensify quality checks as well. To help consumers keep track of changes in oil prices, the government will draw up a price list twice a week. While this is only currently valid for Athens and Thessaloniki, it will be extended to around the country next year. Tsochadzopoulos also expressed his support for this week’s four-day consumer boycott of fresh produce. «Our strategic target to achieve a 20-percent market share in our Danube core region by 2008 requires access to relevant refining capacities. The acquisition of a share in Rompetrol with its Petromidia refinery offers this opportunity,» OMV CEO Wolfgang Ruttenstorfer said.