By Andrew Jay Rosenbaum
Greece's statistics chief has been accused of inflating figures after Greece missed a deadline for it to provide its historic deficit statistics to the EU.
Observers fear the allegation has provided additional reasons for creditors to mistrust the country and will add to Greece’s woes as it pursues difficult negotiations with its European creditors for much-needed funds to run its government and the country's banks.
Greece was supposed to report its budget deficit statistics to the European Commission on Tuesday, but the Greek Finance Ministry provided only a small volume of the required numbers, saying that it would take time to put together a full report.
A large amount of figures are reported to be missing which go back over the past two decades and were necessary for the current negotiations between Greece and its European creditors - the Eurogroup of 19 EU Member States and the European Central Bank.
The European Statistics Agency has previously expressed concern about the overall quality of Greek financial statistics.
Eurostat released a report in 2010 accusing the Greek government of deliberately falsifying financial records, and according to Eurostat, there is evidence the Greek government misreported its 1999 budget deficit in order to gain admission to the euro in 2001.
- Liquidity crisis
Greece’s debt crisis blew up in late 2009, when a new Greek government recalculated its budget and found that it was projecting a deficit of over 12 percent of gross domestic product - more than double that of the previous government.
The news shut Greece out of international credit markets and precipitated the liquidity crisis and the bailout which is still under discussion today.
The agency responsible for the statistics, Elstat, is run by Andreas Georgiou who worked for the International Monetary Fund for 20 years.
Georgiou is himself facing charges in Athens where prosecutors have charged him with inflating Greek 2009 deficit figures to a point that triggered intervention by the International Monetary Fund and the ECB.
While the charges have been on the books for several years, Greek prosecutors began actively investigating them at the end of January.
- Economic maladies
Georgiou had promised the European Central Bank that the necessary financial records would be produced by January.
The affair has had serious consequences for the Greek government and also tested the staying power of the previous three-party coalition government, made up of the conservative party New Democracy and its junior partners PASOK and Dimar.
Several New Democracy parliamentarians have accused Georgiou and their former PASOK adversaries of falsifying data in an attempt to place the blame for the Greek economy's maladies on the New Democracy-led government of Kostas Karamanlis, who led Greece from 2005 to 2009.
The Eurogroup, which is currently close to accepting a list of economic reforms proposed by Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis, is basing its determination on Greece's financial statistics.
But with the allegations over the country's official statistics continuing, the whole evaluation process is being shaken.