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Economy

Greek NGO Says High Prices Bringing Food, Energy Poverty

ATHENS – It’s no surprise to beleaguered Greek households dealing with soaring costs for electricity, fuel oil, and battered at the supermarket but the impact is so great a report said it’s making people cut back across the board.

The 2022 annual Poverty Watch report released by the Hellenic Anti-Poverty Network (EAPN Greece) showed that 64 percent of households are limiting their spending on other needs and 36 percent on basic necessities, said the Chinese news agency Xinhua.
Energy costs have skyrocketed in the aftermath of Russia invading Ukraine, causing a ripple effect in the industry worsened by Russia threatening to withhold supplies although they were exempted from European Union sanctions.

EAPN said Greece’s New Democracy government and the EU need to do more to slow what it called energy poverty although Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis’ administration has already put up 10 billion euros ($9.89 billion) in state aid paying as much as 90 percent of electric bills.

The group, however, said that prices should be capped at the source based on the real cost of production, Spyros Psychas, member of the Board of EAPN-Greece, told Xinhua.

He said subsidies for fuel, natural gas and electricity don’t go far enough and a survey by the polling firm politic.gr found 55 percent of respondents called for a reduction in value-added tax (VAT) and other taxes.

Only 6 percent said that the government should continue supporting society with subsidies but Mitsotakis has moved away from a pledge to consider lowering the 24 percent VAT on food, one of the EU’s highest.

Psychas said Greek society has been so affected by a near decade-long economic and austerity crisis and now the COVID-19 pandemic that more extreme measures are needed, the site said.

“Over 29 percent of the population is poor. And when we say poor, we mean that those people lack basic goods, have low income and live in a low-employment household,” he said, citing Hellenic Statistical Authority (ELSTAT) figures released in July for 2021.

The Poverty Watch research comprises data from ELSTAT, surveys from various institutes and from dozens of organizations offering support to socially excluded groups, and testimonies of people experiencing poverty, he explained. They all show that poverty is a chronic problem for a large part of Greek society that has been deepening again in the past three years.

The risk of poverty and exclusion in Greece was 27.7 percent in 2010 when the debt crisis broke out. It peaked at 36 percent in 2014 and climbed to 28.9 percent in 2020, according to ELSTAT.

Now, with winter looming, some 40 percent of households heat only one part of their residence and turn the heat off even if the temperature is lower than 18 degrees Celsius (64.4 Fahrenheit), the report noted, citing findings of a research released in June by the Nicos Poulantzas Institute, an Athens-based think tank.

Loss of real income of Greek households due to the energy crisis will be over 10 percent in 2022, the report added, citing an analysis of the International Monetary Fund (IMF.) “With what is happening in Europe today I think this winter will be worse,” Psychas said.

“Our research into what our organizations recorded showed that a percentage of households cut back on heating to cook or cut back on cooking to keep warm, which means that we are even heading to food poverty and not just energy poverty,” he noted.

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