Greece’s biggest employers group on Thursday said that rising costs, poor infrastructure, higher borrowing costs and red tape were among the main reasons that the cost of goods in the country has not dropped despite the ongoing crisis.
In a memo sent to the Development Ministry on Thursday, the Hellenic Federation of Enterprises (SEV) set out six reasons for the stubborn prices. These were:
1. Soaring energy costs as a result of higher energy rates, including a special tax tagged on electricity and gas bills.
2. The escalating cost of mostly-imported raw materials.
3. Poor infrastructure services. The report cited the substandard cargo loading and unloading facilities at the port of Volos, in central Greece, as an example.
4. The high transport costs which undermine competition.
5. The extra financial strain caused by the doubling of borrowing costs over the past year, the deterioration of payment terms for imported materials (e.g. packaging materials), the significant increase in taxes, and the long delay in VAT reimbursement.
6. Red tape and a complex administrative structure.
“Compressing labor costs is not fundamental in reducing prices,” SEV said in the memo. “A good example is energy intensive industries where energy costs make up for 40-50 percent of production costs. To offset the recently-imposed 20 percent rise in energy bills you would have to reduce labor costs by 80percent,» it said.
The federation said that the key steps for reducing the prices of manufactured products were lowering taxes, removing regulatory and administrative barriers, and improving the efficiency of the notoriously dysfunctional state apparatus.
Greece’s international lenders, the International Monetary Fund and the European Union, have demanded a reduction in labor costs to make the country more competitive.
But many Greeks, who have seen their disposable income plummet over the last few years, are frustrated that the cost of living has not fallen as well.
Tens of thousands of demonstrators took to the streets of Athens on Wednesday in protest at the anticipated cuts.