Richard North, 16/04/2005  

Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, in today's Telegraph reports that Portugal yesterday became the latest EU country to admit fiddling official data on a huge scale to evade spending rules.

Under the heading, "Lies, damned lies the Portuguese spending deficit", the strap-line highlights the story of how Jose Socrates, the new socialist prime minister, admits that the true figure is twice the Brussels limit. He is now saying that it is time to tell "the truth" about the dire state of public finances left by the outgoing conservatives.

"The information which we have indicates that the deficit will be well above 5 percent of output and very close to 6 percent," he says. The true deficit is twice the declared figure. The country is now in open breach of the 3 percent limit fixed by the Maastricht Treaty, and the growth and stability pact.

Portugal's conservatives, Ambrose tells us, had dodged a rebuke and possible legal action from Brussels by forecasting a deficit of 2.9 percent for 2005. "They left office in March", he writes.

Actually, they were thrown out, after making such a shambles of the government that the president had to step in to restore order.

And who was the prime minister of the conservative government which has been fiddling official data on such a huge scale – before, that is, he scuttled off to get a better job in Brussels?

Ah, that would be José Manuel Durao Barroso, the man who is now president of the EU commission and in charge of monitoring member state compliance with the growth and stability pact. Is this a case of poacher turned gamekeeper – or what?

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