CIPFA urges Greek government to use IPSAS to correct over-statement of debt


The Greek government should use International Public Sector Accounting Standards (IPSAS) to accurately reveal Greece’s real debt position, public finance experts said today.

Ian Ball, Chair of CIPFA International, said there had been a widespread misunderstanding of Greek finances which had resulted in policies and agreements that may only exacerbate the fiscal and economic problems Greece faces. 

IPSAS, which has recently been adopted by Greece, is the only internationally recognised basis for public sector accounting.

As a result of the transparency associated with IPSAS-based financial statements there would be a better informed electorate and a more accountable government.

Its accounting methods also use measurement rules on an accrual basis that could clarify the size of Greece’s debt and prevent its current fiscal position from getting worse.

Ian Ball said:

“While the debt burden is commonly cited as being 175%-180% of GDP, this number is incorrect and indefensible because it based on the face value of Greece’s debt that doesn’t take into account long maturities and concessional interest rates, as well as grace periods.

“Greek debt, calculated on an IPSAS basis is significantly lower, and at the end of 2013 was 68% of GDP. If this is not an appropriate method for measuring debt then every company on major stock exchanges around the world has got its debt measurement wrong. In neither accounting standards nor economic principle is debt measured at face value.

“This pervasive misunderstanding of Greece’s real fiscal position has seen agreements reached between Greece and its creditors which do not address the real problem and instead may actually intensify it. 

“Confronting the actual position faced by Greece, and the losses already incurred by the creditors, would give both Greece and its creditors a fresh start in addressing the very real issues facing the Greek economy and would help prevent the situation from worsening.”


Notes to editors

Media requesting more information should contact Oliver Finegold or Saskia Black at CIPFA’s Press Office on 020 7543 5840/ 5830 or email / 

As well as identifying the real debt position, IPSAS could:

  • clarify debt relief, restructurings and how they have helped Greece’s balance sheet position. This would make explicit the extent of the losses suffered by creditor nations, which have not been recognised;
  • avoid further losses as it could be used to evaluate any major decision by reference to its impact on Greece’s net debt and net worth;
  • help build public trust and confidence in the Greek government through transparent financial statements. This is also essential to Greece regaining the confidence of its creditors and citizens.

For a full copy of Ian Ball’s article please see Public Money Management’s digital edition.