Parties fight it out over Greece’s economic record

The intense rivalry between Greece’s two main political parties went up a notch yesterday after New Democracy accused PASOK of engaging in fraud when it was responsible for the country’s finances, while the Socialists called for the conservatives’ finance minister to resign over the comments. Speaking in Parliament yesterday, Economy and Finance Minister Giorgos Alogoskoufis accused the previous PASOK government of fiddling with accounts to take Greece into the eurozone. «We will be paying for many years to come the price of PASOK’s political fraud to get Greece into the monetary union,» he said. The row over whether PASOK recorded Greece’s public finances correctly was reignited by a recent directive from the European Commission on how military expenditure should be entered into national accounts. Alogoskoufis said the method used by PASOK only showed 40 percent of the expenditure while the rest was never recorded. He claimed the Socialist government spent 15.3 billion euros on buying military equipment from 1997 to 2003 but only showed it had spent 6.6 billion euros. «The remaining 8.7 billion disappeared into thin air,» he said, likening PASOK to sprinters Costas Kenteris and Katerina Thanou, who missed a doping test before the Athens Olympics. «You did not want a doping test for the economy. The Simitis government wanted to avoid the audit (of public finances) because you knew what they would find,» Alogoskoufis told Socialist MPs. PASOK leader George Papandreou, who addressed his party’s national council yesterday, called on the minister to resign after the remarks. He accused the government of panicking and defaming Greece. Papandreou was buoyed by a poll released yesterday which, for the first time since New Democracy came to power in March 2004, gave PASOK a slight lead. The survey by Metron Analysis showed at PASOK at 35.9 percent and ND at 35.6 percent. The Socialist leader also attacked the ruling conservatives over their handling of the phone tapping affair. «Greeks have a right to know whether they have a prime minister who has not understood anything or a prime minister who is hiding everything.»