[MGSA-L] Greek government backs its embattled statistics chief

June Samaras june.samaras at gmail.com
Thu Jan 24 20:38:51 PST 2013


Greek government backs its embattled statistics chief

By Dina Kyriakidou
ATHENS | Thu Jan 24, 2013 10:43am EST
Jan 24 (Reuters) - Greece's government on Thursday backed its
embattled statistics chief, accused in felony charges of artificially
inflating budget deficit figures to make the country's debt crisis
appear worse.

Greek statistics agency ELSTAT head Andreas Georgiou has denied
wrongdoing and the European Union's own Eurostat statistics agency has
defended him, saying the deficit was calculated in line with its

"The ministry does not doubt in any way the statistical data on which
the present (economic) programme is based," a senior finance ministry
official told Reuters on condition of anonymity.

The Greek debt crisis was triggered in late 2009 when the then
Socialist government revealed the budget deficit was grossly
underestimated. Georgiou was appointed in 2010 in an effort to restore
the credibility of Greek statistics.

Government officials defended his record, saying he worked closely
with Eurostat to streamline methods and provide credible figures,
despite resistance from within the agency, echoing EU statements.

"Eurostat has been clear that it finds the revision of the Greek
republic's finance data for 2009 by the Greek statistics service
ELSTAT to be reliable and ... Greek data followed all the EU rules
applicable," said Emer Traynor, a spokesperson for Algirdas Semeta,
the EU commissioner in charge of tax policy.

However, an economic crimes prosecutor formally slapped felony charges
on Georgiou and two other ELSTAT employees on Thursday, on evidence
that they falsified the country's 2009 fiscal data, a court official

The case stems from allegations by an ELSTAT employee who was
dismissed that Georgiou inflated the deficit numbers as part of a
German-led conspiracy to justify harsh austerity measures to accompany
a bailout.

Georgiou, a 52-year old veteran International Monetary Fund
statistician, said Greece's decision to ask its international partners
for help was based on statistics produced by his predecessors, long
before he was put in charge of ELSTAT.

"It is striking that a criminal prosecution ... did not take place
when Greek statistics were a constant source of concern," he said in a
statement. "I will continue to apply the law, despite the

He has denied similar allegations in the past, describing them an
"unprecedented" case of statisticians being investigated for producing
figures under EU regulations.

The charges reopen last year's domestic political row on whether wrong
fiscal data in late 2009 were to blame for forcing Athens to seek an
international bailout that has since swollen to 240 billion euros -
the biggest sovereign rescue in history.

In November 2010, shortly after Georgiou took over, the 2009 budget
deficit was revised again to more than 15 percent of gross domestic
product from 13.6 percent, indicating the scale of Greece's fiscal
derailment and deepening the country's crisis.

If convicted on charges of breach of faith - a crime that usually
applies to those who embezzle or misuse public funds - Georgiou could
face at least five years in jail.

June Samaras
2020 Old Station Rd
Canada L5M 2V1
Tel : 905-542-1877
E-mail : june.samaras at gmail.com

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