Greece is required to keep its deficit to 3.0 percent annually and inflation to the eurozone average of approximately 3.0 percent per year, though it is difficult to understand how this is legitimately accomplished when Athens jumped 30 places on the Cost of Living ranking done by Mercer, an independent institution producing the most comprehensive reports on the subject.
In January 2008, the National Statistic Service (NSS) admitted that inflation was at a 27-month high, however it is officially being quoted as 3.9 percent, though most know it’s more like 10 percent. Employers benefit greatly by using the lower figure, giving employees the absolute minimum raise, if any raise at all.
Is Greece expensive? In a word, ‘yes.’
Dairy products, which are already priced quite high with past increases of up to 40 percent, were set to rise 10 percent. Milk was supposed to be the exception, but findings show this to be untrue on paper and in real life. Increases were between 4.5 to 8.5 percent.
For those who are lactose intolerant or uninterested in cheese and milk, the price for eggs, flour and pasta rose 15 to 25 percent.
Want to keep warm this winter? It’ll cost you. The cost of electricity is up 7 percent as of December 2007, and oil is at a 14-month high because Greece is heavily dependent on it as a source of energy due to outdated heating systems and its failure to embrace greener practices. Add to this poorly built homes with little or no insulation, and you have a country that burns double the energy in winter compared to Sweden, which has a significantly colder climate. (See “Save money with off-peak electricity rates at DEH” to offset the burden).
If you manage to avoid spending money on oil and gas for the car, or choose to take public transportation for environmentally conscious reasons, a 10 percent increase is coming soon. Metro tickets may rise to 1 euro, which is actually a 25 percent increase, and the Transport Ministry is still in debate about other forms of transport. (* It has now been decided that all modes of transport will convert to an 80-cent ticket, which reflects no increase on the metro, a 60 percent increase for buses and trolleys, 33 percent rise for the tram, and 14 percent for the electrikos. This means the monthly card will drop back down to 35 euros on May 1st).
Bank charges are 10 times higher than the EU average, yet bank employees say they are underpaid (welcome to the club) and want a 10 percent raise (kali tyxi). There is also a looming threat of VAT being raised to 21 percent.
Consumers in Greece are being hit from all sides.
Why are prices so high? Cartels are one reason. Lack of competition another.
Rhetoric and recourse
After last year’s round of price hikes, Deputy Development Minister Yannis Papathanasiou said that “competition is working” and things are improving for the consumer. Really? The price he quoted for a liter of fresh milk has risen 61 percent from 0.85 to 1.37 in a year’s time.
Where is the Competition Commission, the watchdog set up to investigate unfair practices and protect consumer rights? Certainly they’re contending with an increase in complaints, but they’ve also been busy with recruiting, dragging their feet on issuing reports, resignations and appearing in court for bribery and extortion.
The government also took loans in excess of the budgeted 35 billion euros in 2007, claiming it necessary to contend with debt brought on by destructive wildfires. Apparently the millions in EU funds and donations from the worldwide community wasn’t enough.
But the consumer is to blame as well. The average resident in Greece will either never admit (s)he can’t afford these prices or simply draw on hidden money from tax dodging or participation in the corruption that fuels these price increases. This apathy and arrogance not only feed Greece’s economic decline, but also perpetuate it.
From the ground
No matter what your view on the “Greece vs. USA price comparison” compiled back in June — and despite the fact my findings were confirmed by the Greek Consumer Protection Centre in “Consumers pay double for basics in Greece vs. other EU nations” — let’s now look at Athens, Greece vs. itself.
This is not a country-to-country Greece vs. USA comparison; this will be published on the one-year anniversary of the original in June. This is an Athens, Greece vs. Athens, Greece comparison to measure real inflation (see title of this post).
It is not about finding “the cheapest possible.” It is about comparing the same exact items of the same brand from the same store or provider six months ago with prices today. It is about the reality of inflation from the ground.
If inflation is really only 3.9 percent, it should reflect this fact no matter what items are on the list.
Reading the table
All measurements are in metric, and all prices are in euros (€) — this is Greece, after all. Each section is subtotaled, and the percentage next to those amounts shows price increases in green and decreases in red. The percentage is calculated per category, not per item, though you are free to do those calculations on your own. I invested quite enough time compiling and coding this data.
Price decreases in electronic media were recorded, and this is a step in the right direction since they were incredibly inflated to begin with.
Other price fluctuations are understandable on some vegetables and fruits being out of season and therefore higher, but this cannot be the explanation for year-round products or in-season produce.
Also keep in mind that food firms have announced they plan to increase prices again on 100 products in 2008. So in addition to the increases tallied in a mere six months, consumers in Greece can add look forward to adding another 18 percent.
|Fanta, 1.5 liter||1.45||1.45|
|Coke, 1.5 liter||1.45||1.45|
|Orange juice, 1 liter||1.40||1.70|
|Fage milk, 1.5 liters||1.98||2.05|
|Total plain yogurt, 200 g||1.18||1.20|
|Lurpak salted butter, 250 g||2.59||2.97|
|Unsalted butter, 250 g||1.19||0.94|
|Margarine, 1 kilo||0.70||0.79|
|12 large eggs||2.36||2.94|
|Philadelphia cheese, 200 g||1.76||1.89|
|Kerrygold cheddar, 200 g||1.85||2.15|
|Ricotta, 250 g||1.70||1.85|
|Sour cream, 150 g||2.59||2.78|
|Haagen Dazs, 500 ml||6.27||6.32|
|Rice, 500 g||0.37||0.37|
|Sugar, 1 kilo||0.84||0.84|
|Fructose, 400 g||1.84||2.15|
|Flour, 1 kilo||0.60||0.68|
|Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes, 500 g
|Katelis Bread (white sliced), 350 g||1.42||1.62|
|Bread (unsliced oval loaf)||0.50||0.74|
|El Paso Tortillas (8)||2.11||2.18|
|Lay’s Salt vinegar chips, 130 g||1.11||1.17|
|Tomato Sauce, 1.5 liter||0.92||0.92|
|Barilla sauce, 380 ml
|Barilla spaghetti, 1 kilo
|Kyknos whole peeled tomatoes, 400 g||0.63||0.68|
|Chicken breast, 1 kilo||8.17||11.71|
|Chicken drumsticks, 1 kilo||3.98||6.12|
|Ground beef, 1 kilo||8.48||7.68|
|Pork top loin boneless, 1 kilo||7.64||7.33|
|Turkey breast, 1 kilo||6.30||8.30|
|Bacon, 1 kilo||9.67||9.67|
|Cooked ham (counter), 1 kilo||13.59||13.98|
|Hot dogs, 340 g||1.89||1.99|
|Broccoli, 1 kilo||2.59||1.29|
|Zucchini, 1 kilo||1.29||2.19|
|Green beans, 1 kilo||2.89||2.89|
|Carrots, 1 kilo||0.43||0.82|
|Spinach, 1 kilo||1.29||1.72|
|Yellow pepper, 1 kilo
|Onion, 1 kilo||0.66||0.64|
|Potatoes, 1 kilo||0.67||0.70|
|Tomatoes, 1 kilo||1.49||1.69|
|Apples, 1 kilo||1.32||1.34|
|Bananas, 1 kilo||1.69||1.49|
|Pears, 1 kilo||1.79||2.29|
|Grapes (red seedless), 1 kilo
|Salt, 500 g||0.15||0.15|
|Pepper, 50 g||0.49||0.49|
|White vinegar, 500 ml||1.22||1.23|
|Ketchup Heinz, 340 g||1.37||1.42|
|Knorr chicken cubes (12)||1.77||1.62|
|Frozen Pizza, 320 g||2.51||2.95|
|Frozen green beans, 450 g||1.41||1.55|
|Frozen peas, 500 g||1.41||1.55|
|Colgate med head toothbrush, massager||2.82||2.82|
|Oral B satin floss, 25 m||3.27||3.27|
|Colgate total whitening, 75 ml||2.39||2.69|
|Listerine cool mint, 500 ml||6.95||6.89|
|Fructis 2 in 1 shampoo, 400 ml||4.00||4.75|
|Dove beauty bar, 100 g||0.87||0.89|
|Mach 3 Turbo, 8 refills||14.99||13.64|
|Gillette shaving gel Ultra comfort, 200 ml||3.23||3.99|
|Kitchen & Paper|
|Palmolive ultra, regular, 1250 ml||2.82||2.84|
|Scotch Brite blue sponge||1.07||0.96|
|Kleenex toilet paper (12) single rolls||6.36||6.30|
|iPod (nano) 4 GB – sale
|TDK CD-R 700 MB 52x (50)||11.95||11.49|
|“Cake” of DVD-R Verbatim (50)||15.50||13.95|
|Sony memory stick 1 GB pro duo||29.00||29.00|
|Sony 4 GB pro duo||69.00||69.00|
|Sony 8 GB pro duo – sale
|Private doctor’s appt
|Birth control pills, 1 month||>2.80||>2.80|
|Men’s haircut, no tip||13.00||16.00|
|- N. suburbs Greek stylist (not a barber)|
|Women’s haircut, incl 20% tip||65.00||65.00|
|- UK stylist in Glyfada vs. Manhattan stylist|
|Bus, metro/subway, tram|
|- All modes single ticket (valid 90 min)||1.00||1.00|
|- All modes monthly pass||35.00||38.00|
|Cable TV (Nova)||56.40||57.00*|
|- 49 channels (then) vs. 46 channels (now)|
|*Has 3 less channels|
|per channel +6.96%||1.15||1.23|
|Basic Phone Service (PSTN)|
|- OTE monthly: 34.91 install, per call charge|
|High speed internet (Forthnet)|
|- 8 mbps||48.50||48.50*|
|* Sale price 26.90|
|Cell phone subscription|
|- 300 min||44.50||44.50|
|- 900 min||113.00||113.00|
|- Cheapest domestic sms||0.07||0.07*|
|- Cheapest overseas sms||0.20||0.20*|
|doesn’t include 19% tax|
1. Services were compared on a regular monthly rate under normal circumstances. Special limited time offers or bundle deals were not used unless it was the only price listed.
2. Prices for all products were surveyed during the week of December 22, 2007, the six-month anniversary of the original survey on June 22, 2007.
3. Prices were surveyed by the same Greek citizens (not my pro-American fiancé) from June 2007 and myself.
Prices rise as few control the market – Kathimerini
Overdue measures on rising cost of living in Greece – Kathimerini
Unaccountability: Unjustified price hikes in Greece – Kathimerini