Data be­lie PM’s op­ti­mism

Tsipras de­clares re­turn to growth as statis­tics agency an­nounces GDP slump

Kathimerini English - - Front Page -

Prime Min­is­ter Alexis Tsipras sought to strike an up­beat note in a speech to his cabi­net yes­ter­day, in­sist­ing that the coun­try has re­turned to growth, but the ad­dress came min­utes be­fore Greece’s statis­tics agency ELSTAT pointed to a con­trac­tion of 1.2 per­cent in the last quar­ter of 2016.

ELSTAT’s sea­son­ally ad­justed, re­vised data showed a 1.2 per­cent de­cline in eco­nomic out­put in the Oc­to­ber-De­cem­ber pe­riod, sig­nif­i­cantly worse than the 0.4 per­cent slump pro­jected in Fe­bru­ary’s flash es­ti­mates.

Shortly be­fore the an­nounce­ment, Tsipras told his cabi­net that the econ­omy was poised to show “ex­cep­tion­ally high” rates of growth this year. “Af­ter seven years of dis­as­trous re­ces­sion, the coun­try has al­ready re­turned to positive rates of growth,” he de­clared.

The pre­mier made only pass­ing ref­er­ences to on­go­ing bailout talks be­tween gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials and rep­re­sen­ta­tives of Greece’s in­ter­na­tional cred­i­tors as ma­jor dif­fer­ences of opin­ion are ham­per­ing progress. He made an in­di­rect dig, how­ever, at the In­ter­na­tional Mone­tary Fund, which con­tin­ues to de­mand fur­ther cuts to pen­sions. “Some, par­tic­u­larly those who bear the great­est blame for the dis­as­trous eco­nomic recipes since 2010, may re­main un­re­pen­tant,” he said. “But re­al­ity has al­ready passed them by.”

The po­lit­i­cal op­po­si­tion pounced on ELSTAT’s fig­ures. “At the ex­act mo­ment that the prime min­is­ter is ju­bi­lat­ing, the data are con­tra­dict­ing him,” Chris­tos Staik­ouras, of con­ser­va­tive New Democ­racy, re­marked. “Gross do­mes­tic prod­uct has still not reached the point it was at in 2014,” he said, re­fer­ring to when ND was in gov­ern­ment. “This is a re­sult of the un­cer­tainty which is grow­ing due to the de­lay in com­plet­ing the re­view, as the gov­ern­ment has nei­ther the will nor the abil­ity to ex­tract the coun­try from the cri­sis,” he said.

Com­ment­ing on ELSTAT’s fig­ures from Brus­sels, Euro­pean Com­mis­sion spokes­woman An­nika Brei­dthardt said the EC was not dis­cour­aged. “We con­tinue to ex­pect growth this year,” she said, adding that the im­ple­men­ta­tion of the re­forms is nec­es­sary in or­der to re­store con­fi­dence.

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