Statistics and Policy Making—The Case of Greece

Amherst College Fall Speakers in Economics

Featuring Guest Speaker, Andreas Georgiou Former Head of the Greek Statistical Office. Reception to follow. 

Greece has a 2000-year old history of mistreating the bearer of bad news.
The latest example involves Dr. Andreas Georgiou of the Amherst College Class
of 1983.  Andreas is a Greek citizen who for 30 years worked at the IMF, most
recently as a senior statistician.  In 2010, he heeded the call of his
country to head up the embattled Hellenic Statistics Authority.  Shortly
after assuming his new post, the Statistics Authority revised the reported
2009 Greek budget deficit from 13.4 percent of GDP to 15.8 percent.  What
happened next has the makings of a modern Greek Tragedy.  For once the
political right and left in Greece were united in their anger with Andreas.
As Andreas describes it, “Unfortunately, in Greece statistics is a combat
sport,”  quite a statement from a man holding a black belt in jiu-jitsu.
Ultimately, the public prosecutor in Greece filed criminal charges against
Andreas for “a breach of trust.”  These charges carry potential penalties
of up to life imprisonment and 100s of billions of dollars in fines.  Sadly,
the Greek government continues to pursue these charges in spite of the fact
that Andreas ended his 5-year term as head of the Statistics Authority in
August of this year.  In response to these charges, Andreas has received
widespread support in the international community.  For example, Jack Lee,
the President of the International Statistics Institute wrote in a letter to
Andreas said: “On behalf of the ISI, I would like to express our strongest
possible support and encourage you in your mission to comply with the
international standards for sound and objective statistical information.”

On November 11th Andreas will be visiting Amherst College to relate his
experiences to students and to present an 8:00 pm talk, focusing on the
importance of statistics in effective policy making and good governance,
entitled “Statistics and Policy Making – The Case of Greece.”