Economy probe riles Simitis

A new dispute sparked off yesterday between Prime Minister George Papandreou and his predecessor as PASOK leader, Costas Simitis, regarding the former’s decision to call for a parliamentary inquiry into the handling of the Greek economy from 2001. Papandreou had pledged to back a probe into why Greece came close to bankruptcy earlier this year, particularly after its economic statistics proved to be unreliable. However, the government announced yesterday that it would ask for the probe to stretch back to 2001, when PASOK was in power, and would not just cover the 2004-2009 period when New Democracy ruled Greece. Sources said that several high-ranking government members pleaded with Papandreou to limit the probe to 2005-2009 and to avoid opening a new front with Simitis, who Papandreou ousted from the party last year when the former premier questioned his leadership of PASOK. However, Papandreou wanted the inquiry to cover the period in 2002 when the then PASOK government entered into a complex derivatives agreement with the Goldman Sachs investment bank that helped the government to mask the extent of its deficit but which did not break eurozone rules. Yesterday’s announcement that the probe would start from 2001 prompted Simitis to accuse the government of dealing in «innuendo and political gamesmanship.» «A committee should look into the economy from 1996 (when Simitis became prime minister) onward,» he said, drawing attention to the fact that the economy was in a dire state when he inherited it. «The same government and the same people can’t be honest before 2001 and under suspicion afterward.»

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