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Politics

PASOK Chief Androulakis Says High Food Prices Hurt Consumers

ATHENS – With European Parliament elections looming in June, PASOK Socialist leader Nikos Androulakis seized on high food prices in Greece to take a shot at Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis inability to further rein them in.

In an interview with the radio program Radar on the Athens municipal station Athina 98.4, he said that Greece was a “champion in high food prices,” and that inflation for those products went up 400 percent in March and 300 percent in April.

“The Greek people are last in the Eurozone in terms of purchasing power, second-to-last in the EU. We have the second-highest private spending on healthcare, after Bulgaria, in the EU,” he said.

Jumping on the political aspect, he said that “Mr. Mitsotakis has the nerve to use as his slogan ‘Vote for New Democracy so that we are close to Europe,’” as parties jockey for position and votes in the June 6-9 ballot.

Mitsotakis, in Parliament on May 24, said dealing with the cost-of-living was as priority for his government although Finance Minister Kostis Hatzidakis earlier said the Value Added Tax (VAT) on food that’s as high as 24 percent on some items won’t be cut.

Mitsotakis told lawmakers that, “The cost of living remains the foremost concern for Greek households. It is the elephant in the room. It dominates public opinion polls, overshadowing other everyday life issues.”

His government has tried to rein in high prices and got supermarkets to create so-called Household Baskets that hold down the costs of 51 essential items, and has fined multinationals for gouging but many households are still struggling to cope.

“Combating inflation is a formidable task that demands time, consistent effort, and, above all, a realistic grasp of the situation,” he said, criticizing the opposition for offering only “severe criticism and unattainable proposals.”

Greeks have some of the highest taxes – up to 45 percent – and lowest salaries in the European Union, a double whammy for them, and he said one answer is to boost income with wage and pension hikes as his government has partially done.

“For months, we’ve been implementing targeted measures to support the vulnerable and counteract profiteering,” he said. “You cannot dispute the steadfast implementation of our policies for wage and pension increases.”

He also noted he asked European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen to have the EU also go after multinational corporations over the cost of branded essential consumer goods. “Greedflation must be addressed at its source,” he said.

Androulakis said what was propping up the country “was a very bad main opposition, which collapsed … and instead of politics, generates lifestyle,” taking a swipe at SYRIZA and its leader, Greek-American Stefanos Kasselakis, for parading his gay lifestyle.

PASOK and SYRIZA are duking it out for second place, both far behind the ruling Conservatives and swapping leads in surveys that show both still essentially politically irrelevant and little chance of gaining on New Democracy.

Androulakis also pointed to Greece’s declining population, still shrinking despite government programs offering bonuses to those who have children and said he would support working mothers and called for a TV debate.

He also tried to bring back a phone tapping scandal over the National Intelligence Service EYP monitoring the phones of 15,745 people – including him – as potential national security risks.

He noted Mitsotakis was supposed to be in charge of EYP before the scandal broke and revelations he was out of the loop and didn’t know what was going on, the PASOK leader saying the Premier refused to “discuss the thing for which he is responsible.”

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