MPs blame ND for 2009 deficit

A parliamentary inquiry into the spiraling 2009 public deficit concluded Friday that New Democracy bears responsibility for Greece?s fiscal derailment rather than the PASOK administration that took over in October of that year but the conservatives, who boycotted the committee sessions, said they will hold a new investigation after the elections.

Only lawmakers from PASOK and the Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) delivered findings Friday. Apart from New Democracy, the Communist Party also refused to take part. The Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) walked out last week.

The PASOK MPs found that the New Democracy government hid the true extent of Greece?s public deficit, which it forecast would be 6 percent of gross domestic product but eventually came in at more than 15 percent, and failed to take the necessary measures to keep public finances stable. The Socialist deputies also cleared Giorgos Papaconstantinou, who was appointed finance minister when PASOK came to power, of inflating the size of the deficit and failing to take cost-cutting steps quickly enough.

The report said that Yiannis Papathanasiou, who served as finance minister from January 2009 until October, had major responsibility ?because he knew from the start of 2009 of the fiscal derailment and did not proceed to take structural and other measures? to contain the deficit.

The PASOK MPs suggested that Papathanasiou added 400 million euros to the deficit by introducing a cash-for-clunkers scheme and by hiring temporary staff, known by the French term ?stagiers,? in the civil service. The ex-finance minister is also accused of failing to carry through with public spending cuts he had announced.

Papathanasiou rejected the findings. ?Those who caused Greece to lose its sovereignty are being provocative,? he said of PASOK. ?They underestimate the memory and intelligence of the Greek people.?

The MPs? report suggested that Papaconstantinou could have done little more than announcing 1 billion euros of cuts at the end of 2009. ?Theoretically, even the toughest measures would not have averted the borrowing crisis and the need to create a bailout mechanism,? the lawmakers said.

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