OPINION

An unfair burden on the citizen

The general impression among Greek consumers that prices have increased disproportionately to those in the other 14 European Union member states before enlargement has been confirmed by statistics. A pan-European study based on the prices of 100 products widely consumed in EU states ranks Greece as the seventh most expensive state. Countries usually considered expensive are actually much cheaper, with Germany highlighted as the cheapest market in the Union when considering the 100 goods in question. The study does not aim to represent a comprehensive picture of price levels in the EU countries. It does not address the issue of prices in retail outlets serving food and drink, and it so does not examine the trend of profiteering with common, everyday products such as coffee served in bars and restaurants – the high price of which shocked visitors to the Olympic Games last year. Nevertheless, the study categorically confirms impressions of Greece as an expensive country beyond a shadow of a doubt. Unfortunately, it is equally clear that the income of the average Greek is below that of most Europeans. Indeed, the country which is ranked seventh in terms of high prices is not also seventh when it comes to net salaries. As a result, the average Greek is obliged to spend a larger proportion of his income on consumer goods than his average European counterpart. The government should consider this fact when it comes to shaping an economic policy, since the statistics show that certain social groups do not have a lot of scope for limiting their consumption. Similar attention should be given to the root causes of high prices in the Greek market. The factors that have been pushing up prices are not one and the same. In some cases, blatant profiteering is to blame, whereas in others the country’s production deficit is the chief problem. However, the common denominator in all cases appears to be inadequate competitiveness in the Greek market, whether this is due to a lack of monitoring mechanisms or the existence of distortions in the market which hamper professionalism and the adaptation of supply to existing levels of demand. The confirmation of the existence of high prices in the Greek market once more highlights the need for the implementation of structural reforms to safeguard fair competition. Consolidating the country’s productive base is necessary to provide a healthy balance of trade and to alleviate the burden of the Greek consumer.