My Big Fat Greek Kludge

ELSTAT: you know, it’s surprising this acronym is not better-known within the context of the economic crisis that has been raging since (roughly) 2008. And I mean in a negative sense, the way names such as Lehmann Bros., Goldman Sachs, Royal Bank of Scotland, Northern Rock, etc. now call up unpleasant associations among most economic observers.

For ELSTAT is the abbreviation (from the Greek) for the “Hellenic Statistical Authority,” the Greek government’s official statistical agency. If you are of the view that Greece never belonged in the Eurozone in the first place – and many are, including French President Nicolas Sarkozy – then ELSTAT is your villain, as it was the false statistics it submitted in the 2000-2002 time-frame which led Greece to be admitted into the club when it was not ready, and may never have been. Similarly, ELSTAT was involved back in late 2009 when Georgios Papandreou won the national elections and became Greek prime minister, only to announce shortly thereafter that his country’s fiscal situation was way worse than he, the EU, and the general public had been led to believe (by ELSTAT) – and that was what kicked off the long-running Greek sovereign debt imbroglio which even last Monday’s deal with the “troika” (EU, ECB and IMF) has surely not definitively solved.

Anyway, there’s a new ELSTAT scandal now, and Dirk Elsner over at @blicklog tips us off:

Staatsanwaltschaft erhebt Vorwurf, dass Griechenlands Staatsdefizit 2009 auf EU-Druck zu hoch angesetzt wurde


Dirk Elsner

There’s also an article to the same effect in the Czech press, spotted by @Zpravy: Řecký parlament bude šetřit údajné “nafukování” údajů o deficitu:



What is going on? Well, once again ELSTAT’s numbers are said to be in error, and that for a political purpose. This time, however, you can say that the alleged fraud is in the opposite direction: numbers not falsified to fool outsiders, but rather to fool the Greeks themselves! The Athens public prosecutor now asserts that the Greek budget figures were actually exaggerated back at the end of 2009 – just after Papandreou had taken office – and this at the request of the EU. Specifically, the EU wanted to see a budget deficit figure of 15.4% – and duly got it – rather than the 12% which was reality. Why? For ammunition to use to browbeat the Greeks into the tough austerity measures they passed/started to pass then.

A Greek parliamentary committee is going to look into this. For now, the suspicion remains that ELSTAT is an agency not to be trusted by anyone, whether on the home or the visiting team. There is also sure to be an additional, unpleasant political effect if the Greek electorate starts to feel it was misled into adopting the painful budget/pension/wage cuts the government undertook to mollify the EU and to deal with its fiscal situation.

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