NEWS

Goods that are cheap for other Europeans are considerably more expensive for Greeks to buy

An intense feeling of uncertainty has struck Greek households as they struggle to make ends meet in a market where the prices of goods are steadily rising while monthly incomes remain the same. Many speak of the introduction of the euro, «which raised the cost of living sky-high,» while others place the blame on the structure of the Greek market, faulty financial projections by the government and the absence of strict control measures and penalties. These critics are not entirely wrong. Despite the fact that the country’s economic indices are on a par with those of Portugal and Ireland, Greece appears to be in a much worse position. Our European counterparts are able to buy cheaper goods on more or less equal salaries, as the cost of living in Portugal, for example, is equal to 79 percent of the European Union average while the cost of living in Greece stands at 90 percent of the average. According to a survey completed by PricewaterhouseCoopers in May this year, Greece is one of the most expensive countries in the European Union, outstripping other member states with much higher incomes. Cheap supermarkets The only exception was noted in foodstuffs and household goods sold in Greek supermarkets, which, according to data compiled by Mercer HR, are among the cheapest in the eurozone. On average, basic household items in Greece cost 95.50 euros, while in Spain the equivalent costs 117.20 euros and in France 146.20 euros. However, while Greeks may enjoy some privilege in terms of shopping at the supermarket, the same cannot be said of other products. Clothes and footwear, according to the same Mercer HR study, are 12 percent more expensive in Greece than in Italy – a country famed for its expensive clothes and footwear market – 20 percent more expensive than in France and 25 percent more expensive than in the Netherlands. The high cost of living is not limited to goods however, but also to services. Telecommunications, medical services, even the cost of being served a cup of coffee, have luxury status in Greece. And if you want to chat on the phone with a friend, it will cost you twice as much as in Luxembourg and 11 percent more than if you were living in Austria. While Greeks are famous for their appreciation of good dining and entertainment, these privileges are putting a much larger dent in the monthly budget than they are for all other Europeans, except the Finns. Nightlife and entertainment in the Netherlands is 13 percent cheaper than in Greece, while at a fast-food restaurant Greeks pay 50 cents more on average than Finns. Coffee is also much more expensive in Greece, priced on average by Mercer HR at 3.40 euros, while in Belgium it does not exceed 2 euros. It would be less expensive, therefore, to enjoy a coffee with a view of the Eiffel Tower in Paris or by the beautiful lakes in Finland, than to sit at a cafe in Plaka. After coffee, it’s time to go enjoy a beer, though again Greeks would be better off not doing it in Greece (where beer on average costs 4.50 euros) or in France (5.50 euros) or Finland (5 euros). Instead, they should opt for Spain (2.63 euros), Luxembourg (2.25 euros), Belgium (2.85 euros), the Netherlands (2.10 euros) or Germany (2.70 euros). Now what if a Greek caught a bit of a chill sitting outdoors? Is it off to the doctor, or do they have to consider the cost of that as well? A half-hour consultation with a doctor at a private practice in Greece will cost, on average, 47 euros, as opposed to Belgians who would pay 20.80 euros or the French who would pay a mere (for Greek standards) 30 euros. Doctors in Spain, Italy and Austria charge more for consultations than their Greek counterparts. Greeks, however, are somewhat luckier if they are prescribed antibiotics. A box of 12 Augmentin 25 mg tablets (a widely used antibiotic) costs 6.20 euros, the least expensive in the European market. While medicine is cheap, the same cannot be said of other pharmaceutical products: a box of 20 Band-Aids is more expensive in Greece than in Luxembourg or Portugal. The state of public transport in Greece prompts most people to buy a car, but the cost is high. A standard category car, a Ford Focus, costs around 14,000 euros in Greece, while in France and Spain the price does not exceed 13,000 euros. This specific model of car, however, is more or less pricier in other eurozone countries, a fact that is of little comfort if one considers the discrepancy in earnings between Greeks and other Europeans. So, Greeks, knowing that they will have to cut down on their coffee breaks, doctor visits, that they won’t be buying that new outfit, or a car this year, may decide to ease their despair by smoking a cigarette, despite the new anti-smoking measures imposed by the Ministry of Health. Again, their budget plan will fall short, as a packet of 20 cigarettes in Greece costs 2.50 euros, in contrast to Portugal and Spain, where the price is 2 euros and 2.10 euros respectively, and Luxembourg, at 2.30 euros.