BUSINESS

ELSTAT chief steps down

TAGS: Finance

The head of the Greek statistics office stepped down on Sunday, adding new complexity to Greece's bailout negotiations with its European Union partners.

A veteran International Monetary Fund statistician, Andreas Georgiou was appointed head of ELSTAT in 2010 in an effort to restore the credibility of Greek statistics a few months after the country's debt crisis erupted.

"I have informed the finance minister of my decision not to accept the extension of my term ... that ends today," Georgiou told Reuters.

Georgiou could have stayed on until a replacement was appointed, but he said he was not interested in having the finance minister renew his term and that it was a personal choice to leave.

He said he and his team had worked to make the statistics office independent, impartial, objective and transparent, sometimes against a series of "unsubstantiated and totally unfounded accusations".

In 2013, a prosecutor brought felony charges against Georgiou and two other agency employees, accusing them of falsifying 2009 fiscal data. A former ELSTAT employee had claimed that Georgiou had inflated the deficit numbers to justify austerity measures.

He denied the accusation and the charge was dropped last month.

In the run-up to joining the eurozone, which it did as a founder member in 2001, Greece under-reported its budget deficit for years.

Since then, unreliable statistics with frequent revisions were blamed in part for pushing the country to a financial crisis.

Since Georgiou took over, however, the European Union's statistics office Eurostat has fully accepted the debt figures provided by Greece.

The independence of ELSTAT remains a key concern as Greece seeks a new bailout from its European Union partners.

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras agreed last Monday to the "safeguarding of the full legal independence of ELSTAT" as one of the promises to achieve a third bailout worth up to 86 billion euros.

[Reuters]

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