Rising costs a noose around Greeks’ necks

The high cost of living has changed the way Greeks live and is one of the few topics of conversation on which everyone agrees. In the more than two years since the euro was introduced, bringing with it a wave of price rises, the cost of living has almost monopolized allegations to the Consumer Institute (INKA), where in 2003, they accounted for 67.2 percent of all charges regarding basic products and services. Within one year, Athens went up 40 places on the list of the world’s most expensive places to live (according to the Mercer report for 2003). The findings were confirmed in market surveys Kathimerini carried out in various European countries. Greece competes with Britain, France and Germany, and some products (such as milk, yoghurt, rice and flour), forms of entertainment and services are far more expensive. According to the National Statistics Service (NSS), in 2003 the general consumer price index rose by 3.1 percent, but wages and pensions remained stuck at pre-euro level. Greece has the second lowest wages in Europe. Average monthly wages are 1,348 euros, compared to the EU average of 2,147 euros, according to the annual report by the General Confederation of Greek Labor’s Labor Institute. According to the same source, in 2002, when Greece saw the greatest increases in real wages in the European Union, these were still at only 75 percent of the European Union average. Kathimerini talked to the representatives of two major political parties, ruling PASOK’s Development Minister Akis Tsochadzopoulos and opposition New Democracy’s Yiannis Papathanassiou, about their proposals for solving the problem after the elections.