Deficit row takes a twist

A statement by the head of the EU’s statistics office stirred up intense arguments yesterday between the government and the main opposition over the recent dramatic recalculation of Greece’s public deficit figures. PASOK seized on a comment by Michel Vanden Abeele, head of Eurostat, to back up their claims that, while in power, they had had an agreement on how to account for military expenditure. The Socialists say a change to this method resulted in last month’s deficit revisions. Vanden Abeele said that after alterations to Greek figures, the method of handling military spending was now in question. Governments either record payments on the day they are made or when military equipment arrives. «The so-called audit the conservative government undertook, without a hint of transparency, was an operation with petty, party-political aims,» said Nikos Athanassakis, PASOK spokesman. «After distorting public finance figures over the years, PASOK is now trying to twist the statements of an EU chief,» replied Finance and Ecomomy Minister Giorgos Alogoskoufis.