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Putting people before profit: energy lessons from Greece

Families should not have to choose between heating and eating. Other countries are responding to the hike in energy prices with one-off payments and subsidies — but will our government follow, asks EUGENIA RUSSELL

THE energy crisis is a huge worry to many families right now. As Marcus Rashford pointed out, people will have to decide “whether you eat or whether you are warm in the house.”

What is our government doing about it? Shrugging their shoulders, or perhaps taking a sunshine break? Maybe they could learn from the example of Greece and consider subsidies.

Rather than wait for the crisis to bite, the Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis made this part of a number of relief measures to assist the public at this difficult time back in September.

Having already made this commitment to help with energy bills, on October 8, the government confirmed that the country would more than double these subsidies to help struggling families; the subsidy of €150 million announced in September is being increased to €500m this month.

Greece has gone even further, by initiating an EU-wide response to the crisis in consultation with Paschal Donohoe, president of the Eurogroup, the meeting of the finance ministers of the eurozone.

Finance minister Christos Staikouras put forward the Greek proposals. Alongside Greece, several countries such as Luxembourg, Poland and the Czech Republic have also proposed interventions.

Greece’s energy minister Kostas Skrekas said: “Our government has decided to support those who have seen their bills growing.”

The majority of Greek households will receive support, including one-off payments in addition to subsidies and the government has expanded the criteria to include different forms of heating used around the country: heating oil, natural gas, firewood and biofuel.

“We will leave no household and no Greek citizen unprotected,” Skrekas added.

PPC, Greece’s main electricity utility which is 51 per cent state owned, will also play its part in helping ease the burden to customers by offering greater discounts this winter.

As a profitable, public-majority-owned corporation, PPC is able to balance success with public service. Its production is partly powered by hydroelectric units and its subsidiary PPC Renewables is planning nine solar projects in northern Greece to make its energy supply greener.

Apart from its attitude that any bump in the road towards the sunny uplands is merely character-building for the nation, Boris Johnson’s government tries to deflect responsibility by saying this is an international crisis.

Which is in part true, but, needless to say, the great unpreparedness on the government’s part and Brexit have not helped.

Governments will be measured not on how good they are at seeking excuses for failure but on their commitment to acting effectively for the good of the public, especially the poor and vulnerable.

In Greece there is a right-of-centre government in power; but unlike the government in Britain, in the face of the energy crisis, one that puts its people before uncontrolled capitalism.

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