ATHENS – Charges by a former board member of the Hellenic Statistical Authority (ELSTAT) that the government deliberately inflated the size of the 2009 economic deficit has prompted an investigation into possible wrongdoing and a criminal complaint that its former vice president, Nikos Logothetis, hacked into the e-mail account of the authority’s President, Andreas Georgiou.
Logothetis denied the charges and his lawyer said he was set up because he was critical of the board’s procedures.
Zoi Georganta, who, along with the rest of the board apart from Georgiou, was forced to resign by Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos, told local media that ELSTAT, after being pressured by the European Union’s statistical agency Eurostat, inflated the 2009 revised deficit from about 12-13% to 15.4% to insure that Greece would have to adopt strict austerity measures to get a $152 billion rescue loan package from the EU, International Monetary Fund and European Central Bank.
Georganta, a professor of econometrics, said the higher deficit figure was made possible by including expenditures from public utilities in the general government spending. Some workers in that utility are now going to be put into a labor reserve board at 60% of their salaries and face firing in a year as Greece seeks to pare down its workforce as a condition of getting more aid. Georganta said the calculation method conflicted with Eurostat practices and that critical studies and statistical calculations were not used. Her allegations have led to the intervention of Financial Prosecutor Grigoris Peponis. Another prosecutor, Popi Papandreou, was assigned to conduct a preliminary investigation to see if any crimes were committed.
“The 2009 deficit was artificially inflated to show that the country had the biggest fiscal shortfall in all of Europe, even higher than Ireland’s, which was 14 percent,” said Georganta. A political battle over the 2009 deficit figures led Greece to ask its partners in the Eurozone of other countries using the euro as a currency for a bailout but that has backfired and helped push Greece into a deep recession. Logothetis’ lawyer, Michalis Dimitrakopoulos, told Skai TV that Logothetis is the victim of a political vendetta because he objected to the way that Georgiou was running the statistics service, and that Greece’s final deficit figure for 2009 was much higher than it should have been.
(Sources: Kathimerini, ANA)