OPINION

Grim reality

Prime Minister Costas Simitis is keen to reiterate that Greece enjoyed the highest growth rate among eurozone members in 2002 and that it will most likely retain its lead over the next year. However, who has actually benefited from this growth? Surely, not the broader strata of the population, indicates a very interesting ICAP survey that was conducted among 600 city households in June. Contradicting Simitis’s bragging about the Eurostat figures for the past year, 54.2 percent of the households said they were worse off than last year. Only 18.7 percent said they were better off than in 2001. The figures are inexorable. The number of households which are worse off than in 2001 increased by a third. Again, back in 2001, 41.2 of the respondents said they were in a worse economic position than the previous year, while only 15.7 percent maintained the opposite. The situation is worse among people living in small urban centers where 63.6 percent of households said they are worse off than in 2001. Two-thirds of pensioners share the same view. Unfortunately, the drop in Greeks’ living standards has been so dramatic that over the previous year 27.4 percent of households did not manage to balance their family budget and were forced to spend their savings or borrow. Only 15.5 percent of households actually managed to save some money during 2002. The ICAP survey also confirmed that the share of household income spent on basic needs (food, clothes and so on) is increasing, while less money is spent on entertainment – a fact which demonstrates that the prosperity-indicating figures do not correspond with the reality of people’s lives. The government’s economic policy and the introduction of the euro have brought higher price hikes than those registered by official inflation figures as regards popular consumer commodities. It is not possible for 54 percent of households to be experiencing a deterioration in their economic status if inflation is down to 3-4 percent and unemployment is declining as the government claims, and when the stock market bust took place and was over two or three years ago. People know that the launch of the euro came with price hikes of 20, 30, 60 and, in some cases, of up to 100 percent on many low-priced everyday commodities. The only people who are blind to this reality are the lavishly paid spinmasters of the government’s propaganda machine. But the electorate also includes that worse-off 54 percent.