Romania statistics chief sacked for 'severe error'

Romanian Prime Minister Victor Ponta has sacked the country's chief statistician, accusing him of "severe error" in his projection of GDP for 2011, the government said Saturday.

Virgil Voineagu was laid off Friday, the government said in a statement, announcing that his deputy, Beatrix Gered, would serve as acting president of the National Statistics Institute (INS).

Ponta slammed the institute for a shortfall of 21 billion lei (4.9 billion euros) in its projection of the 2011 GDP.

"This year, in order to respect the deficit aim we have to cut one billion lei (in spending) because of a calculation error. Where from? From health, education, the army, the police?" Ponta asked at a government meeting on Friday.

He said the INS had made erroneous projections for every year from 2003 to 2010, adding that for 2011: "I have no proof that this was intentional but it is a severe error."

The INS said in a statement that the differences between provisional, semi-final and final calculations are "inherent and are not generated by errors".

The institute also insisted that it complies with "EU reglementation and calculation methodologies".

The growth forecast is 0.7 percent for 2012 in Romania, the EU's second poorest country, and the public deficit is expected to amount to around 2.0 percent of gross domestic product.

An IMF and EU mission is to arrive to Romania on January 15 to discuss the 2013 draft budget and progress on reforms.

In May 2009, the Balkan country obtained a 20 billion euro ($24.7 billion at current exchange rates) rescue package from the IMF, the European Union and the World Bank in exchange for drastic spending cuts.

In March 2011, the IMF and the EU agreed to provide a fresh credit line of 5.0 billion euros to be drawn down only in case of emergency.

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