PM defends accounts

Prime Minister Costas Simitis yesterday angrily rejected charges by an opposition party leader that the government was keeping «double entries» in its accounts, declaring that the claims were the product of ignorance and of his critic’s reading «only right-wing newspapers.» Simitis’s reaction was uncharacteristically testy and appeared to stem from the fact that the European Commission earlier this week contradicted the government’s forecast of a public deficit of 1.2 percent of GDP next year, predicting it to be double that. This rattled the government, which said it will provide new data in an effort to change the Commission’s prediction. During question time in Parliament yesterday, Simitis responded to a question by Synaspismos Left Coalition leader Nikos Constantopoulos regarding the alleged presence of 100 special accounts which, the leftist party leader claimed, constituted a system of double entries. Simitis presented laws showing that such accounts existed since 1950 in Greece and that they also existed in other EU countries. «Do these special accounts constitute a lack of transparency? Of course not. Special accounts are created for reasons of accounting flexibility and better – I stress better, not worse – supervision of accounting practices and the evaluation of specific programs and actions, because all the data concerning an account are gathered at one point, and this contributes to transparency,» Simitis said. «All revenues and spending are included in reports submitted to Eurostat.» Constantopoulos also charged that 4 billion euros raised from privatization between 2001 and 2003 had been spent and did not go toward easing the public debt. «The government is committed to using all the money from privatization to fund the reduction of the public debt,» Simitis responded. «This year, the income from privatization is estimated at 3 billion euros, or about 2 percent of GDP. The public debt reduction is expected to be greater, about 3 percent of GDP. The public debt will be reduced from 104 percent to 101 percent. Consequently, all the revenues from privatization will go toward reducing debt.» Simitis declared, «There are no double books, there is only your ignorance. You do not know how accounts are kept by public services.» As his final barb, he added: «I think you read only right-wing newspapers.»