NEWS

Statistics probe hears from accuser over 2009 figures

The former official at the Hellenic Statistical Authority (ELSTAT) who had accused her boss of inflating Greece?s 2009 public deficit figures to justify a bailout from the eurozone and the International Monetary Fund told a parliamentary inquiry on Thursday that she could not say for sure whether there had been a concerted plan to misrepresent the figure.

Zoe Georganta caused a storm last year when she accused ELSTAT chief Andreas Georgiou of pumping up Greece?s deficit to over 15 percent of gross domestic product, which was more than three times higher than the government had forecast in 2009. However, she told a panel of MPs on Thursday that she knew of no organized plan behind this alleged manipulation of statistics, instead blaming the politicians that handled Greece?s passage to the EU-IMF bailout of ?inexperience, inability or maybe some of them profited.?

Georganta was particularly critical of the finance minister at the time, Giorgos Papaconstantinou.

?I have investigated the matter and found that he does not have any great experience with statistics, with economic issues,? she told the lawmakers. ?In my view, you cannot appoint such an inexperienced minister at such a crucial time.?

The former ELSTAT official claimed that the deficit for 2009 should have been 12.5 percent of GDP and could have easily been brought to below 10 percent with immediate measures. Georganta said that when Georgiou took over at ELSTAT in the summer of 2010, he employed the toughest methodology available to calculate the deficit, which was revised from 13.6 percent to 15.4 percent. The ex-statistician was particularly opposed to the inclusion of debts run up by Greece?s public enterprises (DEKOs) being included in the 2009 figure.

It emerged on the first day of the inquiry, Wednesday, that Georgiou had written in 2010 to the head of the IMF team for Greece, Poul Thomsen, to ask him to pressure the Greek government to give ELSTAT greater independence and Georgiou a bigger say over the final statistics it produced.

During Thursday?s session, it emerged that Georganta had also written an e-mail to Thomsen suggesting that he ask the government to censure Georgiou over his dispute with ELSTAT board members regarding the 2009 deficit figure.