OPINION

Absurdities over statistics

The history of the Greek statistical service, before it became an ?authority? is truly peppered with sin. It is common knowledge that the methodologies it applied were often unreliable and the data aimed mainly at serving the interests of whichever political party happened to be in power at any given time.

The problem, though, was not really in the financial indices of 1999, but in the structures, the poor administration, and the prevailing mentality that even back then gave cause for Greece to be seen as a ?special case.? It is also true that the Greek state had never before recognized the importance of reliable statistics to its continued operation.

An effort to change all of this was made with the establishment of the Hellenic Statistical Authority, an independent body, unconnected to political parties and producing reliable data. Sure, pressure for such an authority from Eurostat certainly played a role, and the European statistical authority even assigned its own representative to supervise and monitor the reliability of ELSTAT?s data.

This is how the 2009 deficit came to 15.6 percent, up from the 13.8 percent that had been calculated initially, and Greece, in the meantime, was forced to walk the painful path of reform in order to avoid bankruptcy.

The methodology applied by the new authority was accepted by Eurostat from the very beginning and more recently by the International Statistical Institute, though not by one former member of the ELSTAT board, after she had left her post.

Her claims hit the mark with various anti-memorandum champions and a ridiculous tale was woven incriminating the head of ELSTAT and various politicians in an international conspiracy of high treason and other such ludicrous crimes aimed at inflating the deficit so that Greece would come under the control of foreign powers and subsequently be plundered.

So now Greece is embroiled in yet another play of the theater of the absurd, which may very well give rise to meaningless cockfighting in Parliament and may even result is some oustings.

And it all started with the strange handling by a prosecutor of a case that clearly was always groundless. Only that the situation right now does not merit the waste of any more political time or capital.

The irony of it all is that Europe will watch dumbfounded as Greek politicians and government officials are persecuted for playing by the rules and applying international standards to calculating the deficit.