The increase in VAT is the most unpopular measure in the austerity plan. Many Greeks see it principally as an attack on the poorest. Even at Varvakios market in the centre of Athens, where the middle class do their shopping, the discontent is mounting.
Matheos Tsoupakis. Chairman of the Varvakios Market Association of fruit and vegetable merchants said: “If the PASOK think that they can raise the money they need by increasing VAT by 1%, from 9% to 10%, they can try. But I don’t think they’ll will succeed because the purchasing power of the population could not stand it”.
The average salary in Greece is 800 euro a month. The basic pension is 280 euros. 20 per cent of Greeks live in poverty, and it is hard for the pensioners to fill their shopping baskets.
Pensioner Zacharias Savas said: “Food here is expensive comparing Greek wallets to the rest of Europe.”
A rise of one or two points in the rate of VAT would weigh heavy on the pockets of shoppers buying basic goods at Varkavios market.
And for some things are already at a critical stage.
Kostas Balomenos, who is employed in the private sector said: “Food as you know is already expensive. People can’t stand it any longer and we are desperate.”
Many Greeks are tightening their belts to such an extent that maybe they will soon even be going without their coffee, which has fast become a luxury.
euronews reporter in Athens Sergio Cantone said:
“Coffee is a national drink in Greece and the average price of a cup is 2,50€. Greeks think that it is expensive. It is a symbol of the imbalance of prices in this country. And with VAT increasing the situation could get even worse as Greek inflation is already higher than in other euro-zone countries.”