ATHENS, Greece (AP) — A former state official at the center of a criminal case over the way the Greek statistics agency calculated budget figures — which had an impact on the bailed-out country's austerity program — claimed Wednesday the 2009 deficit was artificially inflated by 400 percent.
Former Greek Statistics Authority board member Zoe Georganda said she believed the 2009 shortfall was as low as 3.9 percent of gross domestic product — claiming the officially revised figure of 15.6 percent was inaccurate because it included public expenses that should not have been used in the deficit calculation. Georganda claims the higher figure meant that Greece tied itself to a more severe austerity package.
The European Union said Tuesday it had full confidence in Greece's statistics, despite the country's previous misreporting scandals. Georganda's allegations prompted a judicial investigation, which resulted in director Andreas Georgiou and two senior officials at the statistics authority being charged Tuesday with making false declarations and causing damage to the state.
"The real (2009 deficit) number, according to what I have seen and my calculations, was a single digit (deficit)," Georganda told private Vima FM radio. "It was 3.9 percent in my opinion and it was swollen to nearly 16 percent."
In Brussels, European Commission spokeswoman Emer Traynor said Greece had made "very significant progress" in reporting of public finance data and that its figures had been published by the EU "without reservations" since 2010.
The Greek statistics agency was overhauled in 2010 and became an independent authority after the country admitted it had grossly underestimated its budget deficits — triggering financial turmoil that led to a crisis in the group of 17 European Union countries that use the euro.
Greece was granted bailout loans from other eurozone members and the International Monetary Fund set to total €240 billion ($320 billion). In parliament Wednesday, opposition parties demanded Georgiou's resignation.