• REMEMBER THAT NUMBERS ARE PEOPLE LOOK FOR COCK-UP BEFORE CONSPIRACY • ALWAYS CITE PRIMARY SOURCES


Tuesday, 29 October 2013

BELATED WEEKEND READING: 26-27 OCTOBER


  1. ELSTAT celebrates the seventh set of deficit figures in a row to be published without reservations by Eurostat.
  2. Note also that ELSTAT now publishes figures on the impact of support to financial institutions on the government deficit. Q2 2013 was a whopper. Note also that compensation of state employees and social benefits are now less than 50% of all government spending - down from 68% two years ago.
  3. The Commission launches a consultation on State Aid in agriculture, forestry and rural areas. Expect the Greek authorities to respond quickly and at length.
  4. The IMF publishes a brief history of fiscal transparency through the ages, which shows that the modern Greek state was actually a pioneer of fiscal transparency in its early days - because it came into being deeply in debt.
  5. Some tourism/immigration figures to take note of. The number of Serbs and Russians arriving in Greece increases by 50% yoy in H1 2013. Visitors from 'Syria-Lebanon' (?) increase threefold, and a mysterious near-tenfold increase in Estonian visitors.   

Monday, 21 October 2013

BELATED WEEKEND READING - 19-20 OCTOBER


  1. Greek deficit revised downwards by 1 percentage point.
  2. Presenting the Group of States Against Corruption - somehow, its acronym is GRECO.
  3. Nearly two years on, Greece has still failed to recover illegal state Aid from Ellinikos Xrysos, says the European Court of Justice.
  4. On the other hand, State Aid to DESFA to expand gas infrastructure is a-OK says the Commission.
  5. And so is the merger of Aegean and Olympic, says the Commission. Why? Because they received assurances that Olympic could not continue to operate as a going concern and thus further consolidation in the sector was inevitable - presumably no one would buy the company's assets in a fire sale? The reality, of course, is that the merger aims to ensure that long-distance routes remain expensive enough to cross-subsidise the politically sensitive but irreversibly loss-making internal routes. Note the phrasing on the 'Prices' section here. The effects were plain to me when I realised, way back in August, that holiday-time prices for the London-Athens route were already at the levels I was accustomed to seeing when booking last minutes in November.
  6. The IMF's researchers weigh in in favour of a Pan-European fiscal stabilisation mechanism.
  7. Construction in Greece surges by 20% yoy in Q2 2013. I smell a massive rat. Meanwhile, industrial production crashed year on year during the summer.
  8. Some things I did not know about the Greek Labour Force Survey: a) it only covers people who intend to stay in Greece for at least one year. b) taking the survey is compulsory c) the new census figures are still not being used to weight LFS responses - i.e. we can expect the LFS to be re-based sometime soon, with unpredictable results. d) 42% of interviews are carried out by proxy (!) This casts some doubt on statistics involving intentions (e.g. whether people working part-time would prefer a full-time job)
  9. The IMF's researchers warn against expecting structural reforms to deliver short-term growth in the European periphery.
  10. Switzerland has become the 58th country to sign up to the Multilateral Convention on Mutual Administrative Assistance on Tax matters. Greece is also a signatory.
  11. Greece continues to lag the rest of Europe for online purchases - especially (surprise!) those of books, which only 7% of Greek internet users (i.e. a sub-set of the population) have ever bought online.

Thursday, 10 October 2013

PLZ HELP THE COMMISSION - KTHXBYE

This arrived in my inbox earlier today:


Announcements and Publications
09 October 2013

Information request

Availability of short term export credit insurance for exports to Greece

As a consequence of the difficult situation in Greece, a lack of insurance or reinsurance capacity to cover exports to Greece was observed in 2011. This led the Commission to amend the Communication of the Commission to the Member States on the application of Articles 107 and 108 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union to short-term export-credit insurance (Communication on short-term export-credit insurance) by temporarily removing Greece from the list of marketable risks countries. This modification is due to expire on 31 December 2013.

To determine whether current market situation justifies the expiry of Greece's removal from the list of marketable risk countries in 2013, or whether a prolongation is needed, the Commission invites Member States, credit insurers and other interested parties to submit information on, among others:
  • Private credit insurance capacity
  • Activity of insurers acting on behalf or with State guarantee or the State itself in provision of short-term credit insurance for exports to Greece in 2013
  • Sovereign sector ratings
  • Corporate sector performance in Greece
The deadline for replies is 6 November 2013.

More details on this information request and how to send contributions 

Thursday, 3 October 2013

WEEKEND READING 5-6 OCTOBER


  1. Gallup delivers a very poor piece of polling for Debating Europe to 'prove' that austerity doesn't work. I'm not one to rubbish survey data as you know but I note a number of weakenesses.  a) the survey never bothers to define austerity, and adds to the confusion by portraying it as an EU-wide policy b) 23% of those who believe that 'only some countries' benefit from austerity cite Greece as one of its beneficiaries, c) the Eurozone country with the highest level of support for austerity is austerity-hit Ireland, and d) the survey doesn't bother to ask what policies might have served Europe better.
  2. How conspiracy theorising correlates with rejection of science.
  3. China's 50 wealthiest politicians are far, far wealthier than their American counterparts.
  4. Greek procurement transparency portal Diavgeia weakened by poor legal phrasing- but the damage is repaired and seems to have been a case of cock-up rather than conspiracy. See comments below for clarifications.
  5. The latest edition of the Global Financial Centres Index is now out. Athens singled out as a case study of reputational fallout.
  6. The WEF Human Capital report for 2013 is now out. Watch out for the Greek section.
  7. The IMF's Global Financial Stability Report is out.
  8. People chuckling at Eurostat statistics on poverty need to note just how robust the methodology is.
  9. European Commission consults on the need for European regulation on crowdfunding.
  10. Skilled migration - a review of the economic literature