OPINION

Commentary

Will you be able to use the euro in 15 days time? the television reporter asked the elderly woman who had just finished doing her shopping at the local market. We will learn how to use it within a day, the woman replied. But it will cost us. Like 40 years ago, when the ‘oka’ (the old measurement of weight, which was 1,280 grams) was replaced by the kilo. Within only a few days we were paying the same per kilo as we had for an oka. The young journalist did not comment on her response, an answer she clearly failed to comprehend. But the elderly lady actually raised the issue of rounding off prices. Despite government reassurances that prices will be rounded down, we will most likely witness the opposite. And not only in the free market, where control is hard to impose, but also in the populace’s transactions with the State. Indeed, does anyone really have the illusion that the public utilities, such as the state telecommunication company and the water company, will not rush to exploit the changeover? For years now, they have failed to take into account the conditions of economic austerity which apply for Greek workers, as increases in their rates tend to be far higher than the inflation rates and annual increases in workers’ incomes. The Public Power Corporation, a client of the Hellenic Post Office (ELTA), has complained that over the last 20 months the cost of mailing a plain envelope went up by 21 percent (that is, 10 times the inflation rate). It seems that as of January 1, we will be subjected to a predatory assault. Moreover, consumers will most likely be overwhelmed by the feeling that everything is inexpensive. For example, we will be asked to pay cents, and the sum, in units, will seem insignificant. Most of us will realize all too late that we are poorer by 3.407 drachmas, bringing to mind the old warning, this drachma is yours. This illusion of affordability is the most dangerous of all, especially during the first weeks, and will have to be overcome as soon as possible. Also, as of January 1, we will have to stop arrogating the wealth of the millionaire to ourselves, at least those of us – who are the overwhelming majority – who have less than 340,750,000 (of the former drachmas) in our bank accounts. A spokesman for Blair said the premier would almost certainly talk to his Greek counterpart, Costas Simitis, about the issue at the EU summit over the weekend if it was not resolved by then, Reuters reported.