Alogoskoufis takes flak, then dishes it out

An irate Giorgos Alogoskoufis yesterday lashed out at the previous, Socialist government for its handling of public accounts, after being forced into a tight corner over Greece’s deficit figures during a meeting of EU finance ministers (Ecofin) in Luxembourg on Thursday. «PASOK governments bear a huge political responsibility for the situation that has been created,» the Economy and Finance Minister told a press conference, referring to the revision of budget deficit figures for 2000 to 2003, which took Greece above the eurozone ceiling, and the persistent suspicion among EU members that Greece may have cooked its books for 1997 to 1999 in the build-up to joining the eurozone. «With the shortsighted strategy of concealing the actual state of public finances, they (PASOK) created an avalanche of problems, which have developed their own dynamic and have derailed the state budget in recent years,» said Alogoskoufis upon his return to Athens from the Ecofin meeting. PASOK’s former Finance Minister Nikos Christodoulakis blamed the ruling conservatives for raising suspicions among Greece’s EU partners by carrying out a «so-called audit,» which allowed the country to be made an example of in front of other member states looking to adopt the euro. «In its desperation to justify the heavy responsibility it bears for creating this out-of-control situation, the government does not hesitate to sully Greece’s hard and successful effort in securing entry into the euro,» said Christodoulakis. Alogoskoufis was adamant that the blame for Greece’s current problems lay with his previous counterparts, their advisors and the former heads of the National Statistics Service (NSS). «All these gentlemen continue to make statements and write articles, not to justify themselves but to criticize our policy of transparency and a sound adjustment of public finances,» he said. The European Commission recognized Greece’s effort to put its house in order by producing more accurate data and by attempting to reduce the deficit to below 3 percent of GDP next year, but Alogoskoufis spent most of the Ecofin meeting being hounded by his EU counterparts. The Commission has asked Greece for more information on outstanding debt and deficit figures from 1997 to 1999. It is expected to deliver a final verdict by the next Ecofin meeting, which begins on November 14.