Save the Date: December 3, 2019, 3:30 – 4:30PM, Exploratory Hall 3301
Democracy Demands Data
The importance of statistical ethics in the cradle of democracy and around the world
Official statistics provide to large scale societies a tool to know themselves—a mirror—and allow for democracy to operate in large nation states. Official statistics enable the functioning of checks and balances, democratic accountability and the representativeness of democracy. Official statistics provide also an opportunity for those who want to manipulate that mirror. And if the mirror is not showing what they want it to show, they can and do follow various approaches, including violence on official statistics and the people that produce them. The issue is how to preserve the reliability and objectivity of official statistics so as to safeguard democracy: thus, the importance of statistical ethics and the institutions that support these ethics.
About Andreas Georgiou
For 21 years, Andreas Georgiou worked as an economist at the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in Washington DC, of which the last 6 years he worked in its Statistics Department. When the Greek debt crisis hit and Greece began teetering toward bankruptcy, he applied to run the National Statistical Office, which had recently become an independent authority and renamed as Hellenic Statistical Authority (ELSTAT). The main task was to rebuild ELSTAT and clean up Greece’s official statistics that had been persistently misreported for years and contributed to the Greek and broader European debt crisis. He got the job, and in August 2010 he moved to Greece for a five-year term as president of ELSTAT. His revision of the country’s government deficit and debt statistics according to EU statistical legislation in force and statistical ethics revealed the true magnitude of Greece’s fiscal problems and formed the basis for EU and international financial assistance to Greece in the years from 2011 till today. However, in the process, Georgiou became a scapegoat for the economic difficulties of the Greek debt crisis by big parts of the Greek political system. He is subjected to multiple prosecutions within Greece for this statistical work, although the statistics produced by ELSTAT under his watch have been consistently validated since 2010 by the statistical office of the EU (Eurostat) and are used in the past nine years for all official business of the government in Greece.
Andreas Georgiou now lives in the US and is an Adjunct Professor at George Mason University where he taught COS course 402/602 on Statistical Ethics and Institutions during the Fall 2019 semester. He is also Visiting lecturer and Visiting Scholar at Amherst.