Facts and fiscal figures

As Greece waits for the EU’s statistical service, Eurostat, to present its own fiscal figures for the country, the government yesterday made a virtue of necessity and said that these new, vetted numbers will give the economy «greater credibility, soundness and stability.» Eurostat has already obliged Greece to revise its debt upward by 6 percentage points, from 99 percent to over 105 percent of GDP, and the scrutiny of Greek practices is still going on. In a show of determined optimism, the national economy and finance minister said that there would be «marginal revisions» of figures, without providing further details other than that «this will not affect in any substantial way the facts of macroeconomic and fiscal policy.» Greece will still meet its growth target of 3.8 percent of GDP in 2002 but there will be a drop in the initial budget forecast of 4.1 percent growth in 2003, Nikos Christodoulakis told a conference in Athens. «These days there is intensive cooperation between Eurostat and us so that the figures that our country presents, either in Greece or abroad, will be totally compatible and comparable with the statistics of other countries,» the economy and finance minister said. He did not say when Eurostat would publish its figures. But a government source told Reuters, «We are expecting announcements from Eurostat next week, the revision may at most lead to a budget deficit of 0.5 percent of GDP in 2002.» Greece has been predicting a surplus of 0.4 percent of GDP this year and 0.5 percent in 2003. Christodoulakis presented Eurostat’s revised figures as if this were something that Greece had been working toward. «Greece will soon present these figures, which will increase the credibility of the Greek economy, and the substantial progress in fiscal stability, economic development and an easing of burdens which we achieved in previous years will be recognized internationally,» he said. «Consequently, the cooperation with Eurostat will give both the budget and the Greek economy greater credibility, soundness and stability,» Christodoulakis added. It is noteworthy, however, that when Eurostat was preparing to revise the figures pertaining to the public debt, Christodoulakis and Deputy Finance Minister Giorgos Floridis claimed this would burden the debt by another 0.1 to 0.2 percent of GDP. It turned out to dump another 6 percent on GDP.