Greek Statistics Chief: 'Fully Independent for the First Time'
The new president of Greece's national statistical authority, Andreas Georgiou, talks to SPIEGEL about false figures and his strategy for revamping the agency to create a "culture of excellence" in the wake of the debt crisis that led to an unprecedented multibillion euro bailout for the country.
Last year, the new government in Greece revealed that the federal deficit was actually four times the official estimate of 3.7 percent of gross domestic product -- and four times the amount allowed by the European Union under the Growth and Stability Pact in the euro zone. What followed was the European debt crisis and a shaken confidence in the common currency, and the new government was left having to explain the serious errors in federal statistics.
SPIEGEL: Your last position was as deputy division chief in the statistics department of the IMF, and in August you returned to Athens after 21 years in Washington. Why?
Georgiou: My home country currently has large problems and a shortage of good people who can help in the fight against the crisis and its causes. I want to make a contribution.
SPIEGEL: The reputation of Greek statistics is awful. What was the first impression of your agency?
Georgiou: I found an established institution with well-functioning divisions and a lot of good will among the employees. One can build on that.
SPIEGEL: Then how do you explain that the European Commission, the EU executive, found "serious shortcomings" and financial statistics that were marred by "political influence?"
Georgiou: There are, in fact, problems with Greek statistics, the extent of which I also could not have imagined. And it is right that the EU reprimanded (the agency) for serious irregularities, flaws in method and technique and poor collaboration. It hurts. We will do everything we can to clarify the causes. My goal is for a new culture of excellence.
SPIEGEL: Where should that come from?
SPIEGEL: How long will that last?
Georgiou: We need time, and it will be hard. But we have the necessary energy and motivation. We are not satisfied with minimum standards.
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