Tuesday, February 7, 2017

The Challenge Of Understanding Greek Statistics

Only recently had I commented on the most favorable preliminary state budget figures for 2016. I had reported that the "state" recorded a primary surplus of 4,4 BEUR in 2016, compared with 2,2 BEUR in the year before and a target for the year of 2,0 BEUR. By all standards, a rather sensational result.

What matters in the final analysis, however, is the "general government" of which the "state" is the largest component (other components: "state, local governments", "social security funds", "other non-consolidated items"). I thus concluded that, for 2016, the "general government" would look even better than the "state".

Yes, but with a question! Below is the table for the "general government" in P+L format:

The message is short: revenues (mostly taxes) went up quite a bit and expenses went up a bit less so that there was a significant overall improvement over the previous year. In 2015, the primary surplus was 3.993 BEUR (after adding 5.690 BEUR interest expense back into the overall deficit of minus 1.697 BEUR).

In 2016, the primary surplus was 5.007 BEUR! (after adding 5.260 BEUR interest expense back into the overall deficit of minus 253 MEUR).

That would be all fine and dandy if the same figures always remained the same and if they all added up. Half of the confidence of an analyst derives from the fact that the same figures are always the same and that they always add up.

The primary surplus of the "state" in the preliminary state budget figures was 4,4 BEUR (see here). When one looks at the break-down of the general government figures, on the other hand, the primary surplus of the "state" is only 701 MEUR. Perhaps - and most probably - one "state" is not the same as the other "state" but it would be good to be explained the difference.

My overall prediction that the "general government" would turn out even better than the "state" proved correct. I doubt that the major discrepancies described above represent incorrect figures because, after all, all figures come from the same source (Ministry of Finance). My guess is that the discrepancies are a matter of categorization and presentation, which often happens, but it would be useful to be explained what they are.


  1. This german a-hole Schauble needs to get to work:

    "Greece is on track to fall short of budget-surplus targets set under a bailout by the nation’s euro-zone creditors, the International Monetary Fund said.

    Greece’s primary budget surplus will rise to 1.5 percent over the long run from about 1 percent last year, amid a modest recovery, the IMF said Monday after executive directors met to discuss the fund’s annual assessment of the nation’s economy. Still, the projected surplus falls short of the 3.1 percent forecast by the country’s European creditors.

    The fund reiterated its view that Greece’s debt is unsustainable. Most of the executive directors don’t believe the economy needs more fiscal consolidation, the IMF said.

    The IMF has said it would consider giving Greece a new loan to supplement the 86 billion euros ($92 billion) it’s receiving from euro-area countries, but only if the nation’s debt-reduction plans are credible. Greece’s European creditors also want the IMF to sign off before disbursing the next tranche of the euro-zone bailout."

  2. This what the euroidiots have accomplished in Greece:

    Greece’s government debt will reach 275 percent of its gross domestic product by 2060, when its financing needs will represent 62 percent of GDP, the IMF said in a draft staff report obtained by Bloomberg last month. Public debt will reach 181 percent of GDP this year, the IMF projected Monday.

    1. No it won't! Germany vehemently denies it and says the IMF is wrong! And Germany is right! Germany in 2011 didn't listen to the IMF, not because it wanted to save its banks, but because it wasn't capable to grasp the situation that the IMF was describing. Today, rest assured, Germany can and has made its own study and the IMF is wrong. There, problem solved.

  3. Hi,

    Just read a comment on a different blog which gives some nice insight as to what kind of a debuckle we are in...


    ONE, surging yields on Greek 2YR notes means sweet f*** all to the Greek economic drama. Less than 5% of Greece's total debt is in private hands and these notes are on the market for appearances only. They are simply not traded.

    TWO, the ONLY credible scenario is the one where Tsipras capitulates yet again and passes the measures the IMF demands. They will be sold as "just in case" measures to be enacted only in case Greece fails to meet the 3.5% primary surplus target. But since the Tsipras government is confident the 3.5% target will be achieved, not to worry, no harm done, they will never be enacted. Tsipras will be completely obliterated if he calls a snap election because he has no platform. Every one of his lies has been exposed, he has nothing to run on, therefore he will not call elections.

    The whole situation has reached theater of the absurd levels. The IMF doesn't believe 3.5% primary surplus is achievable but demands measures that aim to achieve exactly that. The IMF on the one hand claims the Greek debt is massively unsustainable yet on the other hand offers no haircut, either from its own loans or suggests one on the debt held by the EU and the ECB, but rather only maturities extension. The ECB claims the debt is sustainable when by 2060 it is forecasting that 57% of Greek government revenue will be needed to service the debt (Greece is not paying off capital on these loans, just interest) when less than 5% is spent on a public health care system that has been utterly destroyed. The numbers don't add up and they are not socially responsible. And the EU, the ESM included, claim that great progress has been achieved in the Greek program when real unemployment has risen to 31% despite a huge exodus of young unemployed people leaving the country for greener pastures.

    It's time EU politicians tell their electorate the truth, that Greece has been sacrificed to save French and German banks and ultimately the euro itself, and write that debt off before more Greek people die in the name of the euro. Suicides in Greece have risen 1500%, the time the average Greek lives has been reduced by three years (easy to achieve when treatment for serious diseases in Greece has virtually ceased to exist for most people) and infant deaths at birth have doubled.



    1. These are the remarks of a day trader with coffee breath trying desperately to make a profit on Greece; any profit including selling his mother.

      I hope he loses all of his capital.

    2. To V,

      I don't understand why you have any doubts that Greece will have an astonishing growth while at the same time, breaking the world record for primary surpluses in the world history. Germany believes in Greece for a change, so this alone should guarantee the success! If Schauble says it's possible, then why do you doubt? Are you implying that in reality Germany wants to use the debt as carrot and squeeze the last drop possible out of Greece for the next 50 years? Why, this is preposterous and would never happen by a noble German! The IMF is simply in kahoots with Greece to make a fool out of honest Schauble!

  4. Since you are interested in statistics here are the 2 that matter the most:

    1. Germany's trade suplus with the US shrinks by $10 Billion


    2. Greece completes another year of outselling the US:


    Btw, those countries which pretend to be the friends of Greece, this is how you show it. By carrying a trade defecit with Greece in her hour of need.

    By such measure neither Germany or Austria are true friends of Greece, rather its enemies taking advantage of a country in real need.

    Don't worry we have an elephant's memory in such delicate matters and we will pay you back wih the same or worse coin.

    1. By those measures, I would guess that China is the worst friend of Greece because, I believe, the largest portion of Greece's deficit comes from China.

    2. Klaus:

      If you bothered to ever read the Greek exporters statistics (and not the Belin and ECB nonsense spread by the Bank of Greece which btw is a private institution by the banks and for the banks) you might have noticed that german exports to Greece are 100% higher (or twice as much) than Chinese exports to the same recipient.

      But NO, let's spread unsubstantiated nonsense and try to break the Sino-Greek friendship which is solid as a rock.

    3. Perhaps you could provide us of a break-down of Greece's current account, say the 10 largest surplusers and the 10 largest deficiters. I can't find that information anywhere.

    4. What do you mean you can't find it? What is the effing EuroStat and the useless ELSTAT reporting on this matter? Do you mean to tell me that they keep their numbers secret? Or do you want the numbers before they officially become available so that you could avoid the frequent mistakes of interpretation of the BofG circus?

      How do you say "be patient" in Austrian?

      Don't you know that the useless Brussels bureacrats will report the final 2016 numbers on Greece in April 2017?

      Why don't you call Brussels and demand that these useless bureaucratic rats either speed it up or else since you as a European citizen are already paying for the undeserving salary of these clowns?

    5. 2015 figures would be just as fine. My problem is that I don't know how to get this information. Austrian incompetence!

  5. Clearly the worst offender is Germany re: Greek trade.

  6. Two questions one relevant,one irrelevant.

    1.The measures from the greek government were 9.2 bn € for the period 7-2015--2-2017. For every 9.2 € tax they get back according to budget 4.4 €.

    Expired private debt increased to 90 bn € from 70 bn € at the end of 2014.

    External short term deposit-taking corporations and BoG external short term also reduced and increased respectively with a total increase in Gross External Debt Position around 14 bn Q314 to Q316. In Q4 2016 reduced even more.

    Arrears are 500 mil more than the end of 2014.


    Does the measures influence liquidity of economy in near future in a negative manner given that people create a bit more financial obligations?

    2. PM Tsipras visit L'OREAL and Rothschild & Co executives in Paris for business, without providing any information in the media.For the meeting with Rothschild started an issue in Greece.
    Tsipras want to place some bonds in the markets after an aggreement in the 2nd review.
    During Tsipras visit PDMA haven't signed any agreement with Rothschild before the meeting.
    According to the late government update it was decided from PDMA some days before that Rothschild will be the consulting firm and only some details have left (legislation etc).
    Tsipras was alone in the meeting without Tsakalotos or PDMA CEO or any other official with economic expertise.
    If i recall well you were in Rothschild for some time.
    If you don't mind to answer, this meeting is in accord-line with the Rothschild's code of conduct with customers if there is something like that?

    1. Question 1 was about Tsipras perception that it is possible to place some bonds after a positive agreement with IFM & EU and the expectation of a good course for those bonds, given the fact that projection for GDP is expected near 2.7% according to the overnment and IMF.


      Question 2 for which i m very curious about Rothschild executives and Tsipras was to understand if such meetings are a common or not so common practice to be held or organised in that way.


      If you don't want to say anything, about my comment do not post it.

  7. Yes right. If stupid and incompetent germany says something then it must be right. NOT.

  8. @ V.
    Considering that interest on Greek debt of 322 billion in 2015 was 5,6 billion (or 1,7%) and that the budget surplus could not cover it. Considering that the government wishes to borrow on the market in 2017, a 10% interest on 2 year bonds would worry me.

    1. @ Anonymous February 8, 2017 at 2:10 PM

      I quoted a quote from another blog. I just found the insight interesting.

      Bond went to 10% just that last days because of uncertainty of the when the review will be closed. However even without this uncertainty, it is in my opinion that Greece is still not ready to be borrowing from the market. And if i am not mistaken, we borrow much cheaper through the memorandum. The drawback is we are dictated.

      @ Anonymous February 8, 2017 at 11:39 PM

      Tone it down my friend. This blog is a healthy place to exchange ideas and information. No hostilities are necessary.


    2. YEEES, Greece is much better off NOT borrowing from the market (even if it could)!!! Borrowing rates from the ESM are near zero and even the IMF with its ridiculously high rate of 3,5% (I believe) is much lower than what Greece could obtain in markets. Accept the drawback but enjoy the low cost.

  9. My assumption: Cooked books, badly done.

    1. Aren't they all?


    2. @ V
      Quote: "Aren't they all?"

      I must admit you have a point there.

  10. Klaus:

    Austrian incompetence and buffoonery such as the one displayed during WWI is absolutely right. For that you are world famous. And when everything else fails you go to the opera to watch fat ladies sign. Good for you but not our civilized taste.

    So let's give you one more private lesson in the hopes that you might get it some day.

    According to the official Greek exporter figures for the 11 months ending November 2016 the biggest export markets for Greece are:

    1. Italy at 2.62 Bil. euros
    2. Germany at 1.78 Bil. euros
    3. Cyprus at 1.4 Billion euros
    4. Turkey at 1.2 billion euros
    5. Bulgaria at 1.2 Bil. euros
    6. USA at 1.1 Bil. euros

    The worst import offenders to Greece are:

    1. Germany 4.3 Bil. euros
    2. Italy 3.2 Bil. euros
    3. China 2.6 Bil. euros
    4. Russia 2.4 bil. euros
    5. Holland 2.2 Bil. euros
    6. Iraq. 2.1 Bil. euros
    7. South Korea 1.7 Bil. euros.

    You don't have to be a math genious to see that the german trade surplus to Greece which approximates 3 bil. euros each year puts germany on top of the worst offenders list and therefore a dedicated enemy of Greece.

    1. Thank you for making the effort. Austrian incompetence notwithstanding, I didn't ask for trade account figures but for current account figures, instead. I have explained zillions of times that what matters at the end of the day is the current account. An island in the South Sea may produce nothing and import everything it desires, as long as the tourists bring enough money to balance the current account, they can pay for all the imports. During the 2000s, Germany's share of Greece's current account deficit was about 15%, the Bank of Greece once told me. They also told me that China's was a bit larger and this is why I asked for current current account figures. I it looks like I have to resign myself to the fact that others are as incompetent as Austrians when it comes to getting those figures.

    2. Klauss:

      Do your own homework. I will never give you the numbers you are asking eventhough I have them because of the simple fact that I don't work for you.

      It is you who have chosen a retirement obsession with Greece So your number one responsibility is to research and get the correct numbers which by definition places BofG out of contention.

      Eff the BOG; it's a bankers club and Greece no longer has any banks worth talking about. Schauble has destroyed them with the moronic PSI.

    3. Regardless who does the homework, the more important thing is that you understand the information you have. Since you exclusively focus on the trade balance, I am afraid you don't fully understand the current account.

      The key issues are: spending abroad vs. earnings abroad. If spending exceeds earning, the country needs to borrow abroad and/or attract foreign investment. Otherwise the books won't balance. The current account measures the above.

      The key elements of spending/earning abroad are typically imports/exports, i. e. trade. However, there are also services which affect the spending/earning abroad. Typically, services are not that relevant in the grand scheme of things.

      In Greece, thanks to tourism, it's the services which matter more than the trade.

      In 2015, Greece earned abroad 28 BEUR from services, significantly more than the 25 BEUR from exports and almost half of all revenues from abroad. In trade, the balance was a negative 17 BEUR. In services, the balance was a positive 17 BEUR, coincidentally the same number only with a different prefix (I am not making this up!).

      So here is my thought for you: instead of blaming the Germans for not buying the products which Greece doesn't offer for sale (because Greece doesn't have them), quiz your mind how Greece could get more services income from Germany (apart from tourism: retirement residences, nursery homes, licence fees for software, etc. etc.).

      A hint: if Austria didn't have the services revenues from Germany, our economy would be dead in the water overnight.

    4. Klaus:

      I do understand current account much better than you do.

      The question here is why in the middle of the winter guys like you are shifting through the hay of current account at a time when everybody knows that Greece does not enjoy any tourist revenue inflows?

      What are you trying to prove? That tourism is seasonal and that tourism revenues pick in August or that in January and February of each year Greece has some insignificant tourism revenues because tourism is off-season?

    5. Klaus:

      I much prefer tourism to selling cars because in tourism the object of transaction never leaves the showroom; rarther it becomes an obligation for the german and austrian tourist to come to Greece and pay for the experience in an endless stream of new arrivals:


      And no we don't want any sticking german retirees soiling up Greece. you keep in the german and austrian toilets because it's so nice up there.

    6. @Anonymous at 2.52
      I know that you know everything much better than I which is why I respect your opinion so much and read every word of every comment of yours!

      I wasn't trying to prove anything, only to explain to you that there is more to cross-border money flows than trade, namely services. And I pointed out that in the case of Greece services are more important than trade. Think of it this way: before you only talked about trade, after my comment you now include services. I would call that progress! Be proud of yourself!

  11. And the import of cars was up 21% in January. The Germans have again forced the Greeks to buy Mercedes cars.

    1. I think you mean rental car companies like Avis, Budget and National/Alamo which primarily renew their fleets with mostly Japanese cars which happen to be superior to the german trash cars.

      P.S. the best cars in the world are not trashy Mercedes (which is a maintenance nightmare) but all the luxury Japanese cars which always top the lists based on whatever metric you want. I can tell you with abundant confidence that I drive the best car for the money and - hint - it ain't german:


  12. @V.
    That you are dictated is not a drawback, just imagine what it would be like if you were not, if you can. Be careful what you wish for.

    1. Of course we are dictated. all populations are dictated. Even North Koreans are dictated. If we bankrupted we would still be dictated.

      BUT!!! It is how you are dictated makes all the difference in the world. That which works elsewhere doesn't work here. Even worse they simple don't care and then wonder why it fails.


  13. No V, the bonds went to 10% because the investors wonder if the review will be closed. Those who invested in Greek bonds in 2014 thought they were investing in EURO bonds, that Europa would underwrite Greece forever, regardless, they now have some serious doubts.

  14. I think revenues are artificially boosted by the Short Term Debt relief measures (like ECB's SMP profits if it had an effect in 2016).
    I would rather they impact the post of interests paid, it would be easier to assess long term sustainability when Greece enters the markets again.