Wages 57 percent of EU average

Greek buyers appear to have altered their habits since the introduction of the euro. They no longer purchase foodstuffs in bulk, they select fruit and vegetables with careful thought about the cost, and a night out on the town delays the purchase of a new pair of shoes by another month. This phenomenon, however, is not restricted to Greece. Reputable newspapers in Italy, France and Germany dedicate a great deal of space to articles on the rising prices of goods – which appear not to have stabilized after the period of transition from local currencies to the euro – and the rounding off of prices that, despite promises to the contrary, were never in favor of consumers. Recently, the London Times took up this issue again, mentioning, in fact, the desperation of the situation for Greek households. Big discrepancies For argument’s sake, it is worth noting that a can (330 ml) of Coca-Cola cost, on average, 134 drachmas in June 2001, while in March 2003, it cost 43 cents (or 159 drachmas). Also, a one-liter carton of Life fruit juice cost 416 drachmas in June 2001, while on March 14, 2003 its price had reached 1.36 euros (503 drachmas). On the one hand, the market plays according to eurozone rules, and on the other, Greek wages remain well below the eurozone average. If the cost of living in Greece is close to the 90 percent mark of the eurozone average, the average Greek is expected to scrape by on a salary just 57.3 percent of the eurozone average. The average monthly salary in other eurozone countries is estimated at 2,141 euros, while in Greece it is 1,141 euros. According to research conducted by the Greek consumer watchdog INKA in 2002, Greeks’ greatest concern is the high cost of living. Worries over rising prices come ahead of concerns over healthcare (87 percent of complaints), education (73 percent) and unemployment (67 percent). Greeks have reduced their expenditure on foodstuffs by 17 percent in comparison to 2001, while they have decreased their purchases of clothes and footwear by 21 percent. Holidays and nights out seem to have become something of a luxury, as they have also been trimmed by 33 percent. As far as buying new curtains, plants, or other household goods in general, most Greek households simply put it off for better days. In the past, Greeks were rather generous in their purchases of foodstuffs. An older survey by INKA showed that Athenians had the most expensive garbage in Europe (trash high in protein or foodstuffs that were bought and never consumed). Today, Greeks have restricted their mass purchases of food, opting to shop more selectively and in smaller quantities. Moreover, research has noted that Greeks are increasingly turning to modern forms of money borrowing, such as consumer loans and paying in monthly installments. INKA President Haralambos Kouris estimates that low incomes are mostly to blame for these trends. «The most important problem being faced by the Greek market right now is the discrepancy between the cost of living and average income, and not the increase in prices which seems to have slowed down somewhat since last October.» Apart from the matter of high prices per se, another problem in the Greek market is the liquidity of prices. A recent nationwide price survey conducted by INKA shows the cost of products at different stores diverges as much as 53 percent, while from one city to the next, prices for the same packaged products may vary by 118 percent. These differences are markedly greater in non-packaged goods. Price checks conducted on Wednesday, June 18, in supermarket outlets in the neighborhood of Ambelokipi revealed marked divergences. A roll of Delica kitchen paper cost 1.45 euros in a Marinopoulos supermarket, 1.70 euros in Sklavenitis and 1.95 euros in Carrefour. The price of a tin of Rio Mare tuna fish (in olive oil, 160 gr) was 2.28 in Marinopoulos, 2.04 in Sklavenitis and 2.03 euros in Carrefour. Differences were also noted in the price of Altis olive oil (1 lt), which costs 4.12 euros in Marinopoulos, 3.95 euros in Sklavenitis and 4.08 euros in Carrefour. Differences were also found in the prices of goods at the same supermarket chain in different areas.