Spending soars, wages flat

Athenians’ consumer spending has grown by leaps and bounds over the past five years, but mainly as a result of price increases rather than gains in purchasing power, a European Union survey has found. The survey, conducted by Eurostat, the EU’s statistics agency, between 1999 and 2004 among inhabitants of the then-15 member-state capitals, shows that Athenians’ spending in several categories has increased more steeply than that of other capitals’ inhabitants. In the category of clothing and footwear Athenians spend the biggest amount, overtaking their counterparts in other European capitals. Only in one category, communications, does increased spending appear to be the result of increased usage rather than higher prices. Mobile telephony has spread faster in Athens than elsewhere in Greece, with ownership reaching near-saturation levels. New services, especially messaging, have been additional spending boosters. «Consumer models have changed. As a result, spending on new sectors… especially technology, has changed,» Theodossis Palaskas, professor at the Department of Economic and Regional Development at Panteion University, told Kathimerini. The study does not distinguish between the period before the introduction of euro banknotes and coins (1999-2001) and after. However, it has been widely observed that prices took off after January 1, 2002, as both wholesalers and retailers took maximum advantage of the public’s unfamiliarity with the new currency. «(The introduction of) the euro was an unsettling event for households, a phenomenon also observed in other European countries. Upward revisions of prices were also not confined to Greece only,» said Manolis Kontopyrakis, secretary-general of the National Statistics Service.