When gas is nearing $10 a gallon, coffee $6 for a small pack, electric bills doubled, inflation at the highest rate since 1993 and the cost of basic commodities and foodstuffs like bread, milk, olive oil, meat, fruit and vegetables soaring, Greeks don’t care about anything else.
But the real barometer is souvlaki, so Prime Minister and New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis, after hobnobbing with the elite at the Davos World Economic Forum in Switzerland, the Delphi Economic Forum in Greece and his shipping oligarch buddies at the Posidonia 2022 show-off exhibit of power and might, needs to try one.
If he knows how much it costs.
Hungry Greeks do, and they’re going to put him on the skewer if he concentrates only on billionaire and millionaire investors, 5-Star hotel and luxury resort companies – focusing on an upscale economic recovery during the lingering COVID-19 pandemic he forgot is still ongoing.
Greeks don’t care about the Russian invasion of Ukraine, a conflict with Turkey, NATO, or the United States, or the Eunuch Union likely to leave Greece in the lurch if push comes to shove.
They care about their household budget and feeding their families, and what seems to be the trivial matter of the cost of a souvlaki, or gyro, is of bigger consequence, especially to those who can’t afford it anymore.
There’s been a 12.1 percent hike in food prices at the supermarkets where more people are turning to generic brands or cheaper alternatives, buying less or walking past items that give sticker shock if you have a family to feed.
It’s not the 30 or 60 cents or 1 euro here or there that registers with them but the percentage increase that cuts into a food budget – especially when the government said it can’t afford to cut a 24 percent Value Added Tax (VAT) on food, one of the EU’s highest.
There’s plenty of money for everything else it seems, Greece having received 32 billion euros ($33.35 billion) in EU loans and grants to deal with COVID-19, no report where it went apart from money diverted to developing a 5G Internet in a country where signals can be spotty.
Ignoring or failing to deal with inflation brought down U.S. President Jimmy Carter, might do the same to Turkish President-Sultan-Dictator Recep Tayyip Erdogan despite his iron grip on the country, and could be Big Trouble for Mitsotakis, especially after hitting 11.3 percent in May.
If he has any advisors who know anybody in the middle class they should stop the photo ops with shipping tycoons and the rich and powerful and get him down to a souvlaki shop. Now there’s a photo you’d pay to see.
We’re not talking about caviar or champagne here but marinated pork or chicken on a skewer or rotisserie, Greece’s version of fast food but better, and it’s the kind staple the less well-off rely on even if they have to sort through their glove compartment looking for coins to buy one.
He doesn’t hold news conferences generally, but if there is another one some reporter ought to raise a hand and ask him: “Mr. Prime Minister, how much does a souvlaki cost?”
After it was explained to him what a souvlaki was, Finance Minister Christos Staikouras – who said there wasn’t enough money for state aid to deal with rising energy costs and then said there was and that the economy will grow 3 percent this year – might know the answer.
While you can still find souvlaki for around 2.40 euros ($2.50) the average price, said Reuters, has risen 30 percent in a year to 3.30 euros ($3.44). Not so much? If you’re a family of four with limited means it is.
To blame is a large rise in the cost of the main ingredients, namely meat, vegetables, and sunflower oil tied to growing energy costs as well as disruptions to the supply chain by COVID and the effect of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the report said.
The Grill and Restaurant Union in Athens said that the price of pork had gone up by 30 percent in the past year and sunflower oil, which was mostly imported from Ukraine, rose 125 percent.
Spyros Bairachtaris, whose family has run a restaurant near the Acropolis for 140 years, said it was a struggle to keep the price of his souvlaki below 3 euros ($3.13) but souvlaki shops there can count on a flood of tourists.
Those in middle-class neighborhoods can’t. They don’t have the Davos crowd or shipping oligarchs or the rich trolling through looking for bargain lunches because those people are on yachts counting their money and keelhauling the poor.
The Premier has had triumphs since ousting the phony Looney Left SYRIZA in July, 2018 elections but he’ll be up against them again next year, if not sooner, and they’re focusing on his weak spot.
Politicians have free cars, free food, free gas – and no idea of what the people they allegedly represent are going through because all they see are rich influencers and tourists spending money like drunken sailors.
Once USDA Prime Choice #1 before he became hamburger, Greek tennis star Stefanos Tsitsipas had a souvlaki named for him during the Australian Open, so Mitsotakis needs to beware that there could be one for him, but it wouldn’t be pork, but baloney.