Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis yesterday sought to convince citizens that the government is aware of the problems they face due to rising prices, and to shift attention from a period of internal strife in the ruling party, pledging to crack down on profiteering in the commercial sector. «I know only too well that many of our fellow citizens are having a hard time getting by, particularly the unemployed and those on low wages and low pensions,» Karamanlis said on a surprise visit to the Development Ministry. «The problem is international, complex and tough,» he said, adding that the aim of the government was to «minimize the repercussions of the (global financial) crisis on citizens’ lives.» Karamanlis said he had asked ministry officials to intensify a crackdown on traders found to be profiteering and he heralded the creation of a special market supervisory committee to ensure that the same product is not being sold in Greece at higher prices than in other European Union countries. The unexpected visit to the ministry by Karamanlis fueled speculation, as both the minister, Christos Folias, and his deputy, Giorgos Vlachos, have been criticized in connection with price hikes over the past months. However, sources told Kathimerini yesterday that the premier’s visit to the ministry did not signal his displeasure with the officials. They said it was rather an attempt to show that his government cares about citizens’ everyday problems. Meanwhile the premier, and ruling New Democracy as a whole, came under fire from the leader of the main opposition PASOK, George Papandreou, who on Monday tabled a bill aimed at alleviating the financial burden on poorer citizens. Papandreou charged that ND had «lost the confidence of society and voters.» He noted that the «loss of citizens’ trust in ND is no coincidence» in an apparent reference to recent opinion polls which show the ruling party’s lead to be significantly eroded.