OPINION

Cooking the books

The insufferable habit of presenting fabricated budgets in an attempt to dress up the Greek economy by falsifying or hiding economic figures has got to stop. As we have repeatedly said in this newspaper, the European Union will no longer tolerate cases of creative accounting, that is cooking the books in order to serve the political goal of meeting the nominal Maastricht criteria for eurozone entry. The political aim was met, the euro is already our single currency, the era of carefree exuberance is history. Portugal is already under surveillance and being threatened with sanctions, the EU has taken disciplinary action against Europe’s leading power, Germany, while it has cautioned France over its deficit. This should be enough to convince PASOK socialists of the need to adapt to a new, and stricter, framework. Besides, the government has received direct warnings over its economic policies from many different directions. The European statistics service, Eurostat, has already forced the government to review its fiscal numbers, turning its budget surplus into a shortfall in 2001 as well as 2002. The governor of the Bank of Greece noted on Tuesday, after meeting with Prime Minister Costas Simitis, that the high inflation rate «harms the economy’s competitiveness in the mid-term, undermines the growth rate and creates conditions for an increase in unemployment.» The State Audit Council revealed an extra 1.5-trillion-drachma deficit and instead of rebuffing or justifying these additional expenses, the government instead castigated the «constitutional deviation» caused by the Council’s supposedly going beyond its jurisdiction. Countries cannot be governed with evasions or delusions. Simitis’s government must draw up a realistic budget that will reflect the real picture of the Greek economy – painful as this may be. It must then hammer out an economic policy on the basis of real figures, making all the necessary reforms for the rehabilitation of the economy. Greek citizens have a right to know where their society really stands as the whole population could be caught up in the illusion promoted by government propaganda: that, in contrast to the German and French economies, the Greek economy is free of problems. This absurdity is the end product of current practices. When is it going to stop?