Politicians in Greece Make Data the Enemy

In a January 23, 2017 post (Right Use and Politics in Performance Measurement and Management), I argued that practitioners of performance measurement and management (PMM) must not ignore the reality of politics if they want to ensure the “right use” of PMM. They do so at peril of coming into the cross-hairs of foes who would “shoot the messenger” rather than consider data that they don’t like.

The lesson that performance measurement data is not above politics came into full international view today on the front page of the Wall Street Journal article today written by Marcus Walker under the title Greeks Make Data The Enemy: Facing resurgent debt crisis, politicians indulge in conspiracy theories involving former  statistics chief.

Andreas Georgiou, an American-trained economist and Greek citizen who moved from the U.S. and became Greece’s first independent head of statistics in 2010, stands accused by his foes of manipulating the country’s deficit figures in a plot to force austerity measures imposed by the European Union (EU) and the International Monetary Fund (where Georgiou worked before he took the chief statistician job in Greece). He could face multiple trials and imprisonment under the charges even though Greek investigators and prosecutors concluded that he committed no crimes and was merely applying EU accounting rules.

EU representatives worry that Greek statistics will become “a political plaything,” as well they should. The sad story of Mr. Georgiou, who moved back to the U.S. in August 2015 without seeking to extend his five-year term with the Greek government, underscores the fact that PMM is not only a diagnostic exercise but also an instrument of power and control.

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