Ex-NSS chief says data claims not true

Greece’s statistics service has been wrongly accused of providing unreliable budget deficit data, Manolis Kontopyrakis, the ex-chief of the National Statistical Service (NSS), said yesterday. «The rancour of recent days [regarding the deficit revision] is in no way due to the statistics service’s data, and the mudslinging is totally groundless,» Kontopyrakis told reporters. A political appointee of the former conservative government who resigned after the Socialists came to power on October 4, Kontopyrakis said the deficit projection itself is estimated by the ministry, not the statistics service. «It is submitted to the NSS which in turn submits it to Eurostat,» he said. «The NSS is in no way involved, directly or indirectly, with the calculation of the projection.» There was no immediate reaction from the Finance Ministry to the comments by Kontopyrakis. Greece’s estimated shortfall was 7.7 percent in 2008, against the originally submitted 5 percent, and will be 12.5 percent of gross domestic product this year, Finance Minister Giorgos Papaconstantinou said in Brussels last week. The previously ruling New Democracy party estimated the deficit would reach 6 percent of GDP this year. Papaconstantinou, who is seeking European Union approval for an extension of the deadline to reduce the deficit, has said he’ll make the country’s statistics agency independent.