In Greece, a statistician faces life in prison for doing his job: calculating and reporting a statistic


In a recent post I described the importance of government statisticians. Well, apparently in Greece it is a dangerous job, as Andreas Georgiou, the person in charge of the Greek statistics office, found out.

So far, though, his efforts have been met with resistance, strikes and a criminal investigation that could lead to life in prison for Georgiou.

What are his efforts ?

His first priority after he was appointed was to figure out how big Greece’s deficit really was back in 2009, when the crisis began. He looked through all the data and concluded that Greece’s deficit that year was 15.8 percent of GDP — higher what had previously been reported.

Eurostat, the central authority in Brussels, praised Georgiou’s methodology and blessed the number as true. The hundreds of Greek people who work beneath Georgiou — the old guard — did not.

So in response, the “old guard” decided to vote on the summary statistic:

Skordas sits on a governing board for the statistics office. His board wanted to debate and vote on the deficit number before anyone in Brussels was allowed to see it. Georgiou, the technocrat, saw that as a threat to his independence. He refused. The number is the number, he said. It’s not something to be put up for a vote.

Did they perform a Bayesian analysis based on the vote?