Thursday, February 4, 2010


The fact that the EU is blasting ‘unreliable’ Greek economic data is not as simple as it seems. What is all this nonsense about “Greek statistics” making my country the laughing stock of Europe? What about the European Commission’s statisticians paid to check the figures? Please folks, give us a break!

Is it just Greeks that fiddle with statistics as though they are whores that can do anything for us? Perhaps this is what statistics are for – to make a point! What surprises me actually is that people bother with them at all. They are to mathematics what psychology is to medicine – full of loopholes. They are the economist’s version of anabolic steroids.

I tend to agree with two-time British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli who said: "There are three kinds of lies: Lies, damned lies and statistics”. Saying that statistics are reliable is an oxymoron at any rate. What about the UK Home Office statistics that had Sir David Normington apologizing to the Commons public account committee for unreliable statistics two years ago? Or how about last year’s Chinese unreliable statistics in the middle of the global crisis that had international economists rubbing their eyes at the rosy picture being portrayed?

If you look hard enough you’ll find as many interpretations to statistics as recipes for veal pies. Harvard President Lawrence Lowell so aptly wrote in 1909 that statistics, “like veal pies, are good if you know the person that made them, and are sure of the ingredients.” And though statistics are dubitable, there is no question on the sumptuousness of Greek home-made veal pies.

***Pictured is Economic and Monetary Affairs Commissioner Joaquin Almunia who is launching an infringement procedure to ensure that Greek authorities report reliable budgetary statistics. (Greece's deficit is currently more than four times higher than eurozone rules allow).  

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