Thursday, August 10, 2017

Andreas Georgiou - A Never-Ending Story

It is in the nature of some situations that a final verdict will never be accepted, regardless how often a final verdict is rendered. The debate about who killed JFK will never be closed. Even if the Special Counsel were to clear President Trump of all charges of a possible Russian collusion, the debate about that would go on.

It looks like the case of Andreas Georgiou has a fair chance of becoming one of those situations where a final verdict will never be accepted, regardless how often a verdict is rendered. I am personally contributing to this phenomenon by writing another article about the case when in actual fact I thought that my previous, very recent, article had closed the case from my point of view.

I re-open the case because I have just read two very interesting articles on the Georgiou case. In "The case of Georgiou: When the Greek justice system is cast aside", the author, Minas Konstantinou, reaches the following conclusion:

"Whatever the outcome, the case of the former ELSTAT chief has already irrevocably exposed all parties, both inside and outside of Greece: the current SYRIZA -ANEL government and the preceding ones who for years accepted the ultimate humiliation of public demands; the Justice Department that permits such flagrant intervention into the country’s internal affairs as a prerequisite for receiving payments towards loan financing, the European and American partners, who can no longer conceal the terms on which their game is being played internationally, on the backs of democracy and justice. And of course, there are the major Greek and foreign media, who are yet again proving blind to the bigger, anti-democratic picture." (n. b.: the emphasis is mine)

In "The whole truth and nothing but the truth", Nick Malkoutzis reaches a far shorter conclusion:

"Anyone who believes that it is imperative for a country’s economic data to be grounded in reality rather than fantasy has understood that the case against the former head of the Hellenic Statistical Authority (ELSTAT), Andreas Georgiou, is a farce."

I think these two articles serve as evidence that the debate about Georgiou is likely to go on for a very, very long time. However, I wish to add a somewhat different perspective on the case.

According to Wikipedia, Andreas Georgiou was born and raised in Greece and completed his secondary education there. Thereafter, he went abroad, first to study and then to work. From 1989 - 2010, he worked for the IMF in Washington. In 2010, he returned to Athens to take up the job as Head of ELSTAT. At that point, Georgiou had spent about 30 of his then 50 years outside of Greece, his entire adulthood.

I myself had left my home country Austria at age 18, after completing secondary education. I went abroad first to study and then to work. When I returned to Austria, I had spent 23 of my 41 years outside my country of origin. My passport still showed Austria as my nationality but initially I thought I had landed on a different planet. Books have been written about the experiences of 'internationalists' returning to their country of origin. Andreas Georgiou clearly was an internationalist who had returned to his country of origin in 2010.

The 'returner' runs into suspicion from all sides, disguised as alleged curiosity. Whatever the new professional environment, the returner's qualifications are scrutinized by his superiors, peers and subordinates. Was he really successful abroad? Is he really competent? What does he know about the local business environment? Etc., etc. Certainly at the peer level, there tends to be very high suspicion coupled with behind-the-back maneuvers.

Georgiou's case was slightly different from mine. He did not return to Greece to start a new life there. Instead, he was 'brought in' by other outsiders to run a domestic agency and bring it up to speed, which agency before had been accused of incompetent, if not criminal conduct. It is clear that in a situation like that, the newcomer will not be given a chance, not to mention a fair chance, by the existing management. On the contrary, the existing management - now publicly degraded for incompetence and, possibly, criminal conduct - will now watch every step of the newcomer to see if and when they can entrap him.

Georgiou had another thing working against him: he was/is not a statistician by training and profession. Yes, he had been deputy division chief in the IMF Statistics Department but that is no match for professional statisticians who have been in that business all their lives, like apparently members of Georgiou's management team were.

For one person to come in and turn a situation around by himself is a mission impossible. One needs to have a support structure. Apparently, the only support structure which Georgiou had was Eurostat, his functional superiors. He seems to have gotten strong support from Eurostat in his work, which is only one more reason for his domestic resisters to watch even more closely every step he takes.

It is impossible for a manager in Georgiou's position/situation to always be 100% perfect. There will be comments which, in retrospect, should not have been made; there will be emails which, in retrospect, should not have been written; there will be other things which can always be misinterpreted by people of ill intent. And, clearly, Georgiou's professional loyalty undoubtedly went to Eurostat and not to his board of directors. In such circumstances, anyone who wants to build a case against Georgiou will find something which appears to justify such a case.

Georgiou has now been sentenced to two years in prison with three years of parole for breach of duty, on the charge that he had failed properly to inform the administrative committee of ELSTAT about the transmission of data regarding the 2009 deficit. That was the maximum penalty. No mitigating circumstances were considered. His lawyer considers the verdict a 'victory' because it concerns only a small misdemeanor. Georgiou's lawyer is wrong. A small misdemeanor or not, being convicted is being convicted. From there it is only a short step for others to later claim "would you believe a convicted person?"

Georgiou's supporters are making a mistake by portraying him as Mr. Perfect who never made any mistake. Whenever then mistakes are uncovered, however small, they will be used to show that Georgiou's supporters were/are wrong. The way Georgiou's job performance should be appraised is as follows: he was brought to ELSTAT to report correct statistics to Eurostat; it is Eurostat who defines what correct statistics are; and Eurostat has confirmed unequivocally that Georgiou's reported correct statistics. Full stop.

Minas Konstantinou focuses on all the alleged scandals which came to light following Georgiou's first indictment back in 2013. He puts particular blame on Greece's European and American partners.

Nick Malkoutzis focuses on all the scandals which made the above alleged scandals possible in the first place. Malkoutzis rightfully points to the previous ND and PASOK governments for having led Greece into the calamity which exploded in 2010. And he also points to EU authorities who cannot have been so naive as to think that the statistics submitted by Greece were correct.

Only these 3 institutions can put the Georgiou matter to rest by coming out and stating their responsibilities.


    I disagree with your assessment of the case on a small, but important point. "Georgious professional loyalty undoubtedly went to Eurostat and not to his board of directors". Even if you don't believe, as I do, that his loyalty went to one of his values, truth, you have to give him the benefit of doubt.
    Is one long proof of the way I have described Greek discussions. Quoting irrelevant speculations and changing the issue.
    Only 2 "actions" or omissions of Georgiou's are mentioned:
    - He sent an e-mail to Poul Thomsen informing him that there was a need to modify the founding legislation of the independent Greek statistical authority.
    If he thought it was necessary to uncover the truth, I consider it his duty. It was one of the e-mails that were hacked into by one of his subordinates. I don't know what customs are in Greek courts, but in most USA and European courts it would not even appear.
    - He received a letter from the head of Eurostat, Walter Radermacher, who is SAID to have-----.
    The word SAID indicate it has not appeared in court, hearsay.
    It goes on with countless quotes by the media accusing and insinuating about a variety of persons and institutions, more hearsay.
    It goes on concluding that past and present, Greek governments, Greek institutions and Greek media, instigated, aided and abetted by their European and American partners, are the culprits, and the victims are the vast majority of the Greek people.
    And so it became THE CASE OF THE FOREIGN DEVILS VERSUS THE GREEK PEOPLE, as was the author's intention.
    Once again it is proposed that the Greek people, were not, are not, will not and should not be, responsible for the acts of their governments.
    Is mainly factual. But he is very careful to distinguish between the suffering Greek people, who have been taken for a ride, and the political class, who contributed to the myth about the debt and the deficit soaring before 2009. Who does he think the lynch-mob screaming "long live Greece' was? What money does he think paid his education? He is one short of saying that Europe instigated the debt, but happily declares that they have enabled it by not interfering. Let me remind him that Eurostat each and every year up to 2009 told the Greek governments "you are lying through your teeth", further that until 2009 they could not interfere. The rules were not made to cater for the possibility that members would blatantly lie for years on end.
    And so we have the paradox, that Greece blame Europe for not interfering, and also when they do so.
    Have a nice weekend, Lennard.

    1. I am not so sure that it is only Greeks who don't accept "the truth and nothing but the truth". Read the below article. One can always make a credible case for any side. That's why I am suggesting in this case that trading arguments is not the smart way. The smart way would be to simply say that there is no room for arguments.

  2. ELSTAT was and still remains a mickey mouse agency pre-Georgiou and post-Georgiou.

    To date, it's a tool of ambush politics rather than true statistics.

    The most recent show of its incredible incompetence are the so-called "flash estimates" on the Greek economy. The last blunder back in May of this year reported the Greek economy in Q1 to be in recession (a convenient argument in the hands of Troika for further austerity) while in reality the final numbers showed the exact opposite. Last week, quietly while no one was watching, ELSTAT announced that they will no longer be issuing "flash estimates" since now we all know how horrible they are in what they do and with an equally horrible record to match.

    Therefore, this false narrative that somehow Georgiou came in and reshaped ELSTAT is of course deeply untrue and misleading. Georgiou did nothing to reform ELSTAT except take a set of unchecked numbers given to him by Troika and make these numbers the basis for his "improved" (but as it turns out false narrative) on the Greek economy.

    As far as I am concerned the only thing Georgiou did was to employ a new method of accounting for and reporting petroleum products which as if by miracle gave Greece an exporting boost (to fit the Troika narrative that the Troika regime was beneficial to Greece and here are the new statistics to prove it).

    Therefore Georgiou was neither a reformer nor a better (reliable) statistician as most of you bleeding European hearts are trying to portray him as such.

    He was a naked Troika stooge and of course Troika wants all its stooges to be given immunity for obvious reasons.

    Therefore I fail to see what your fascination is with this fairly incompetent statistician who failed to produce anything of value to Greece except embeding the Troika "framework" as the truth (which "truth" happens to be an uber falsehood indeed).

    And I disagree with Kleingut's definition of intelligence as "no more rooms for arguments" because the omissions in this case are so glaring that by definition it's impossible not to have arguments in this whitewash case of supposedly reformed Greek statistics.

    1. I am amazed that someone like you, who would mostly blame others for Greece's travails, would have, from time to time, true attacks of revelation. The way you describe ELSTAT, it is symptomatic for Greek institutions. In fact, I would argue that the major deficiency of Greek society are the weakness and inadequacy of most of its institutions. There was a book out a few years ago, "Why nations fail". A Greek was a co-author. Their argument was essentially that the difference between successful and failing nations was the quality and adequacy of its institutions.

    2. Kleingut:

      You are purposely misrepresenting my position when in fact you should know it better after countless exchanges.

      I am not against reforms. I have stated numerous times that it's an ancient Greek(aka Mycenean) trait to perfect and improve own tools in seeking mastery. Unfortunately in the modern world, only the Japanese practice such Greek trait correctly and as it happens Japan is half a world away, in the farthest possible distance from Greece and without any particular influence on the Greeks who prefer the Chinese instead as their natural allies.

      The problem for modern Greece is that we cohabitate the same geographical area with a bunch of European morons who don't have a clue what they are talking about.

      So, your friends, the European clowns, come to Greece on an overt mission to save their flawed euro currency while pretending to introduce beneficial reforms to Greece, which is a total lie and an affront to rudimentary intelligence.

      Your friends, the euromorons and the euroidiots, do not understand the Greek economy and therefore are unsuited to introduce anything of value to Greece.

      Instead of realizing how out of your depth you are in Greek matters, your Berlin overlords have decided to cooperate with a naive and amateurish leftist government which complements you fine in all fields of ignorance known to man.

      Then on top of it all, you want us to take you seriously when you ask the silly question of us joining forces with you in wrecking our own economy.

      Now tell me what sort of logic is this?

  3. Kleingut:

    I see you have a tenderness for circular arguments. So which precisely Greek institutions did the uber incompetent Troika reform?

    Because all the stupid Troika did, instead of introducig beneficial reforms which could be used in a good way, was to superimpose its own falsehoods as the "supposed truth".

    Name me one Greek institution that Troika actually reformed for the better. Just one.(and stay away from naming ELSTAT if you don't want to get an F for your answer).

  4. Kleingut:

    I see you have a fondness for circular arguments. So which precisely Greek institutions did the uber incompetent Troika reform?

    Because all the stupid Troika did, instead of introducig beneficial reforms which could be used in a good way, was to superimpose its own falsehoods as the "supposed truth".

    Name me one Greek institution that Troika actually reformed for the better. Just one.(and stay away from naming ELSTAT if you don't want to get an F for your answer).

    1. Have I ever suggested that the Troika ever 'reformed' a Greek institution? Never! The Troika was/is a creditors' committee defending the interests of the creditors (sometimes perhaps disguised as 'help for Greece'). The Troika is NOT a nation-builder.

      Only Greece can reform its institutions, no one else can do it for them. Others can offer assistance, like I thought the EU Task Force for Greece was the best assistance Greece could ever have been offered. Regrettably, Greece did not use that Task Force to reform its institutions. Instead, it sent the Task Force away.

      So yes, I would see it the same way as you do: there has been no material 'reform' of Greek institutions since 2010.

    2. But Kleingut:

      I am sorry brother, but why did your creditors committee choose Syriza for the job? How can you expect Syriza to reform institutions when by definition Syriza was never part and always outside of such institutions? Not to mention Syriza's extreme hostility to all institutions (both foreign and domestic).

      Tsakalotos is out the door now; who the Troika will replace him with to defend the creditors committee interests? Who the heck understands finances formthe Syriza crowd? Chouliarakis who according to Varoufakis is just pure slime?

      And for as long as Syriza remains in power what "reform institutions" are we talking about? These guys are total outsiders and then some.

    3. PLEASE!!! Don't portray Greece as a country that has no sovereign will on is own. A country which must be given a government by foreigners; which must be given an economic plan by foreigners; whose institutions must be reformed by foreigners; etc. Do you think there would be any Greek shipping tycoons today if they all shared your mindset?

    4. What????? Greece is sovereign? When? Where? Who made it sovereign?

    5. Oh you poor victim!

      Does Greece have a parliament (legislative)? Does Greece have a government (executive)? Does Greece have a Supreme Court (judicial)? Does Greece have national borders within which its, and only its, jurisdiction is valid. Can Greeks elect their representative politicians at regular intervals?

      By joining the EU, Greece, like all the other members, gave up some of its political sovereignty (I believe up to 70% of national laws are nowadays prescribed by the EU; everywhere!). Greece also submitted itself to the European Court of Justice.

      By joining the Eurozone, Greece, like all the other members, gave up its financial sovereignty by foregoing the ability to print its own currency. That is really no different from your home state California, which can also not print US dollars. If and when California, or any other US state, becomes insolvent, the state needs to negotiate with its creditors. The US government cannot bail-out California (prohibited by the Constitution). California's creditors are private. Please believe me that those private creditors would be much tougher than any official Troika could ever be.

      If the above self-elected constraints on its sovereignty are too much to bear for Greeks, there is one very simple solution: submit an Article 50 letter to the EU, declaring your intent to leave the EU. Two years later, Greece is out of the EU and out of the Eurozone as well. Full sovereignty regained. Just as simple as that.

    6. No, EU we keep - it's very good for the free and non-returnable money flow. Leaving the eurozone, yes. The only problem is how the totally "sovereign" government of Greece which has full juristiction inside its borders, could be persuaded to act as such when de facto is no longer a government and it could no longer make any such unBrussels decisions. That's the problem. The problem is how to convice the crazy king to defend its kingdom which was lost over a horse('s ass called Berlin).

  5. What about the predecessors of Georgiou as heads of ELSTAT? The ones that had cooked the books for decades. Any trials or convictions?

    1. Who says that they cooked the books?

      The previous ELSTAT chiefs were simply following a different set of guidelines. The IMF wanted a different approach in accounting.One might say that Georgiu was reckless in his abrupt application of a new system with zero integration to the existing system.

      If you have evidence of wrong doing then feel free to sue them.

    2. I do. "A different set of guidelines" is pure bull. When Greece joined the EU and the EZ they signed treaties that bound them to comply with the rules and regulations of Eurostat. If they did follow "a different set of guidelines" they simply cooked the books.
      Sueing them? Where? In corrupt Greece. Come on.

    3. Ano @ 12:42

      The statistics issue is irrelevant. Cyprus by any metric has worse statistics than Greece, yet the Cyprus economy is flying. Therefore your Eurostat statistics give you very little control over the economy which it is whatever it happens to be based on either soud or flawed economic policies. Not to mention that a 30% grey economy renders statistics totally useless as a tool of control.

      So I am not sure what your problem is except the obvious that you have no mastery over the subject you are trying to control. And you have invented a convenient story why you failed to have control by such pseudo-measures.

  6. I guess the Greek Miister of tourism is happy at the moment:

  7. But Phoevos, we still need Tsipras for the next 4 reviews before fall of 2018. And, I can well understand your anger when someone affronts rudimentary intelligence.

    1. o.k. I understand. The destruction of Greece is not over yet! So you need to rent Tsipras on a month to month basis? or you want a full 2 year lease with escalation clauses? Can we at least set the price or it's a freebie for good old buddy Troika again?

  8. What you guys don't uderstand is that even today there are serious problems with Greek statistics. So your thesis that Georgiou did something is false:

  9. According to this piece, ND is after Georgiou:

  10. After having written 27 comments on the statistical issue within 12 days, Phoevos declare it irrelevant. I wonder what that makes him?