PM scales down statistics probe

A parliamentary probe into the Greek economy will only focus on the statistics that the country produced between 2007 and 2009, Prime Minister George Papandreou said yesterday, despite having previously said that the inquiry would stretch back to 2001. «The focus of the investigation will be specific political actions and decisions that led to the manipulation of statistics, which damaged our country’s reputation internationally and have resulted in the biggest test Greece has been through in recent decades,» he told Parliament. Papandreou had pledged to ensure a probe was carried out into why Greece came close to bankruptcy earlier this year, particularly after its economic statistics proved to be unreliable. He argued that Greece’s partners abroad were also demanding to know why its deficit figures proved to be so unreliable and had to be revised upward dramatically when PASOK came to power last October. «People abroad still ask me, ‘Isn’t anyone in your country responsible for fudging the numbers?’» he told MPs yesterday. The decision to examine just the 2007-09 period caused a stir, as Papandreou had indicated that the inquiry would also cover some of the years when PASOK was in power. New Democracy responded by saying it would not support a probe with a much smaller scope than the government had originally suggested. The conservatives argued that the investigation should go back to 1981, when PASOK first came to power. «Let’s go over everything,» said ND spokesman Panos Panayiotopoulos. «We will not, however, be party to a game of point scoring and diverting people’s attention like the one PASOK wants to play.» Papandreou had originally 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 which helped the government, legally, to mask the extent of its deficit. This upset some PASOK members and drew criticism from former Prime Minister Costas Simitis. Papandreou ousted Simitis from the party last year over a different disagreement. ND suggested yesterday that the fear of rekindling the rivalry between the two was a primary factor in Papandreou changing his mind about the inquiry into the questionable economic statistics.

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