The euro crisis: If Greece goes…

Written on June 28, 2011 by Ángeles Figueroa-Alcorta in Europe, Globalization & International Trade, Political Economy

The opportunity for Europe’s leaders to avoid disaster is shrinking fast.

THE European Union seems to have adopted a new rule: if a plan is not working, stick to it. Despite the thousands protesting in Athens, despite the judders in the markets, Europe’s leaders have a neat timetable to solve the euro zone’s problems. Next week Greece is likely to pass a new austerity package. It will then get the next €12 billion ($17 billion) of its first €110 billion bail-out, which it needs by mid-July. Assuming the Europeans agree on a face-saving “voluntary” participation by private creditors to please the Germans, a second bail-out of some €100 billion will follow. This will keep the country afloat through 2013, when a permanent euro-zone bail-out fund, the European Stability Mechanism (ESM), will take effect. The euro will be saved and the world will applaud.

Time to stop kicking the can

That is the hope that the EU’s leaders, gathering in Brussels as The Economist went to press, want to cling to. But their strategy of denial—refusing to accept that Greece cannot pay its debts—has become untenable, for three reasons.

First, the politics blocking a resolution of the euro crisis is becoming ever more toxic (see article). Greeks see no relief at the end of their agonies. People are protesting daily in Syntagma Square against austerity. The government scraped through a vote of confidence this week; the main opposition party has committed itself to voting against the austerity plan next week and a few members of the ruling Socialist party are also doubtful about it. Meanwhile, German voters are aghast at the prospect of a second Greek bail-out, which they think would merely tip more money down the plughole of a country that is incapable either of repaying its debts or of reforming itself. As the climate gets more poisonous and elections approach in France, Germany and Greece itself, the risk of a disastrous accident—anything from a disorderly default to a currency break-up—is growing.

Second, the markets are convinced that muddling through cannot work. Spreads on Greek bonds over German bunds are eight points wider than a year ago. Traders know that Greece, whose debts are equivalent to around 160% of its GDP, is insolvent. Private investors are shying away from a place where default and devaluation seem imminent, giving the economy little chance of growing. The longer restructuring is put off, the more Greek debt will be owed to official lenders, whether other EU governments or the IMF—so the more taxpayers will eventually suffer. Read more…

As published in www.economist.com on June 23, 2011 (Print Edition).


Andrew September 24, 2011 - 3:58 pm

Absolutely…. the fact that haircuts were not applied in the first IMF-EU rescue package was a disgrace. Lets brace for GFC II.


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