ECONOMY

Defense ministry overspends

The Ministry of Defense has found itself in the embarrassing position of having three armaments procurements annulled by the General Accounting Office for exceeding the ministry’s allocation of funds for 2002. The Accounting Office told the Defense Ministry’s General Procurements Division that it could not fund the acquisition of counter-battery radar ARTHUR (developed by Sweden’s Ericsson in cooperation with Greece’s Intracom), the Cougar Combat Search and Rescue (CSAR) helicopter developed by Eurocopter, as well as ammunition for the 105-mm guns of the artillery corps, because it will exceed its 2002 allocation ceiling of 2.96 billion euros by 551.7 million. Defense Minister Yiannos Papantoniou has only himself to blame; in April 2001, as National Economy and Finance Minister, it was he who had called for caps on defense spending, entering into a major row with then-Defense Minister Akis Tsochadzopoulos. In his present post, to which he was appointed last October, Papantoniou seems to have jettisoned his «guns-for-butter» philosophy. His successor at the Economy Ministry (and former deputy), Nikos Christodoulakis, however, is warning against spending excesses, creating yet another source of friction between the two formerly close allies. General Accounting Office officials, drawing from past precedent, are not so certain the government will actually hold the line against excess spending: the 1996-2000 Procurements Program’s initial budget was 4 trillion drachmas (11.74 million euros) but, in the end, 6.5 trillion drachmas (19.7 billion euros) were spent.