NEWS

MPs force Greek statistics chief to defend role, exemptions

The head of the Hellenic Statistical Authority (ELSTAT), Andreas Georgiou, on Wednesday defended before a parliamentary committee the fact that he does not pay any social security contributions and does not submit an annual derivation of wealth form (“pothen esches”) to tax authorities.

During a stormy session in Parliament’s budget execution committee, Georgiou insisted that he had no intention of resigning. The ELSTAT chief deflected criticism about him not paying social security contributions by saying that he would not be claiming a Greek state pension.

“It was a clear and transparent process: I made a request and was given permission,” Georgiou said of being excused pension and healthcare deductions. “I would never gain any benefit from such a contribution,” Georgiou told Independent Greeks MP Marina Chrysoveloni when she asked why he asked for the exemption. “Your answer is a slap in the face,” she responded.

Georgiou, who took over at ELSTAT in August 2010 shortly after Greece agreed its first bailout with the eurozone and International Monetary Fund, said he had been informed by the Greek anti-money laundering unit in February that, unlike most public officials and MPs, he was not obliged complete a derivation of wealth form each year.

Georgiou faces criminal charges after an ex-ELSTAT employee accused him of colluding with the EU’s statistical arm, Eurostat, to inflate Greece’s 2009 deficit figure, thereby justifying the bailout. MPs questioned why Georgiou had not stepped down pending his trial. The statistics chief said that he had appealed against the decision to charge him.

New Democracy MP Savvas Anastasiadis raised eyebrows when he suggested that his party “believes that the 2009 statistics were doctored.” The New Democracy government had forecast a public deficit of 3.8 percent of GDP in 2009, but after Georgiou took over the shortfall was revised to 15.6 percent. “What you say really surprises me,” Georgiou told Anastasiadis. “From what I understand, the government has accepted all the data.”

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