OPINION

Spill the beans, Mr Minister

So, the price of «barbouni» (red mullet), that lovely bewhiskered fish, has risen to 2.90 euros. So what? It’s a delicious fish, so why shouldn’t it cost the equivalent of 1,000 drachmas? At the end of the day, those who can’t afford barbouni can always opt for the «poor man’s barbouni» – «koutsomoura» (blunt-snouted mullet) – which is cheaper because it lacks the barbouni’s luxurious whiskers. Oh, but the price quoted above is not for the barbouni fish but the barbouni bean. That changes everything. We must alert the development minister, the Competition Commission, consumer groups, farmers and NATO. If beans today cost the same as fish four or five years ago, then something has gone terribly awry. The euro certainly has – in 2002 it was advertised as the end to our troubles, though they hadn’t foreseen the vicious cycle of rising prices and profiteering. This is the main, if not sole, «market law,» the underlying reason why the euro has become the equivalent of a 100-drachma coin. There are two well-rehearsed excuses for the rising cost of living which emanate from government lips. One blames it on consumers and their need for shopping therapy. But shopping therapy with barbounia (fish or beans)? Seriously? The second can be summed up by the phrase «you were asking for trouble.» In short, they are telling us – while keeping a straight face – that a coffee in Athens is two or even three times more expensive than in Rome or Paris because we spend hours lounging around cafes, slugging back one version of coffee after the other and thus prompting cafe owners to up prices. OK, maybe the price of coffee can be attributed to our laid-back attitude, but have you ever seen anyone sitting back and ordering plates of every type of barbouni on the market (fish or bean)? Maybe our generally inventive ministers need to come up with a better explanation.