ECONOMY

Greece misreported fiscal data in the past, Eurostat replies to ex-PM

A top Eurostat official claimed Greece had under-reported military and other expenditure for years and that it was not a change in accounting methods that inflated Greece’s past deficits. In a letter to the Financial Times published on Tuesday, Eurostat Director General Guenther Hanreich responded to an article by former Prime Minister Costas Simitis, published on December 22, in which Simitis had claimed that the present government had followed a different accounting method to inflate the deficits over the period 1997-2003. «Eurostat agrees with Mr Simitis that there is a need to improve monitoring and review of government accounts (and) that public debt and deficit data should be independent of political cycles. However, Eurostat cannot agree with a number of public statements made by Mr Simitis, and in particular, that the revision of the Greek data is due to the retroactive application of new rules,» Hanreich writes. Referring to a Eurostat report submitted earlier this month to the European Commission and the Council of Finance Ministers (Ecofin), Hanreich says «there was a clear under-reporting by the Greek authorities of military expenditure irrespective of the accounting method used, an over-reporting of revenues from social security and an incorrect treatment of a significant amount of capitalized interest in government bonds. «Eurostat found that, in spite of assurances from the Greek authorities that they would apply the appropriate accounting rules, this was not always correctly done… In spite of the repeated concerns publicly expressed by Eurostat, the information provided by the Greek authorities did not allow Eurostat to arrive at correct deficit figures for Greece,» Hanreich remarks. The revision of Greece’s deficits has shown that Greece has violated the limits set for participation in the eurozone every year since 1997.