Olympic cost at 6 bln

The Athens Olympics will cost 6 billion euros, way above the previous government’s budgeted 4.6 billion euros, National Economy Minister Giorgos Alogoskoufis said yesterday. He claimed the PASOK government had hidden many costs. Briefing a parliamentary committee on the state of the economy, Alogoskoufis charged that PASOK had not included some projects in the Olympic budget, while others had been priced below their cost. Security, now set at 1 billion euros, had not been included. It was not clear whether the security costs now contributed to the increase. «This is the first time that an official says the Olympic budget will reach 6 billion euros,» commented PASOK MP Giorgos Floridis, a former minister. «This will delight contractors, who will see another 1.5 billion euros going into their pockets,» he added. «You were the joy of the contractors all these years. But your populism will not go very far,» Alogoskoufis shot back. But yesterday’s briefing covered more than the Olympic budget, as Alogoskoufis explained Greece’s fiscal problems. «The situation we inherited was worse than what we expected and that was why we were rather optimistic before the elections,» Alogoskoufis said, referring to pre-electoral promises. He warned that the public debt would exceed the 103 percent of GDP that Eurostat has accepted, saying that new debts and borrowing are revealed daily. Alogoskoufis charged that in 2002 the PASOK government had been involved in financial transactions worth 2.2 billion euros which were aimed at concealing and that this cost had now reached 4.6 billion. Deputy Finance Minister Petros Doukas added that banks had received 6.2 billion euros in interest on bonds they had received so that the debt could remain hidden. Alogoskoufis stressed that the debt’s full audit had not been completed and forecast that surpluses at public utilities and pension funds would turn out to be smaller than expected. «We are making great efforts to limit the deviations from the budget. But I warn from now that it will be difficult to keep the deficit below 3 percent of GDP,» he said. PASOK MPs focused their criticism on what they called Doukas’s secret decision to borrow 6 billion euros. «The State borrows every year. Naturally I knew about the loans,» Alogoskoufis said.