OPINION

Price increases

The new year seems to have brought an alarming increase in prices on many goods and a wide range of services. A considerable number of merchants, primarily middle-range ones, are not just violating the rules pertaining to the rounding down of prices in the price conversion process, but are also blatantly exploiting the introduction of the euro for profit-making purposes. Price increases have, in many cases, exceeded the 10-percent or even 20-percent threshold, particularly in inexpensive goods, so that the additional sum is not so obvious. The phenomenon has caused concerns to the government, which, instead of coordinating its efforts to combat it, is, for the time being, turning a blind eye, fearing that officially confirming what the public is personally experiencing on a daily basis would exacerbate the phenomenon. The situation is worsened by the cold snap and the subsequent catastrophe in the production of fruit and vegetables which has, in turn, caused a precipitous rise in the prices of fresh produce. Given the fact that profiteering can also be seen on agricultural goods whose production has not been affected by the bad weather conditions, there is growing concern that the snowstorm could be exploited for setting prices higher than their present levels. This unfavorable mix of unjustified and partially justified price increases threatens to cause serious inflationary pressures during a psychologically difficult period. Inflation is expected to rise from 2.4 percent in November to more than 2.8 percent in December. Under the present circumstances, January could be even worse, setting the economy on an alarming trend. The government, no doubt, has to take measures to reverse the nascent inflationary trend triggered by the latest wave of price increases. This battle, however, cannot be won without the citizens’ active participation. We all have to resist arbitrary price increases. We have to call merchants who profiteer to account and rather purchase goods from merchants who respect the consumer. We should not become disillusioned. If the market sees that consumers accept these unjustified price increases in a fatalistic fashion, the phenomenon will spread and no government intervention will be able to curb it. Attica, the neighboring provinces of Boeotia and Evia, and the province of Rethymnon on Crete were declared in a state of emergency, due to record snowfall over the weekend. As the cold front moved southeast yesterday, the area of Hania on Crete was also declared in a state of emergency with dozens of villages cut off by snowdrifts.