Re The $200 Billion Electric School Bus Bust Chris Goodfellow: Are we thinking rationally? The stunning extra cost to property…
Greece, EU and world economy 2011-2013
Written by Diana Thebaud Nicholson // October 12, 2013 // Kimon Valskakis // 15 Comments
A bit of black humor: Clarke and Dawe: Lending merry-go-round
How can broke economies lend money to other broke economies who haven’t got any money?
The Greek Economy
the novelty of giving Greece $100 billion dollars every fortnight will wear off at some point
See also EU economy and News and Commentary on NSoA website
Credit to Bloomberg for this clever illustration of the unraveling Greek economy
Deep divisions reopen over eurozone
After a period of calm, disputes on whether Greece will default again and how to sort out the problem of eurozone banks deepen the fault lines
The eurozone crisis came back into the spotlight last night as speculation mounted at the IMF/World Bank meetings that the Troika of IMF, European Union and European Central Bank (ECB) would have to take some losses on their holdings of Greek debt as early as next year.
The hotly-disputed banking union plan was another issue on which policymakers were still deeply divided.
“We are in a situation where we do not know, especially with the recapitalization of the financial institutions that the eurozone is going to put on, whether we are solving future problems or past problems,” the governor of the Czech central bank, Miroslav Singer, told Emerging Markets.
Greek PM faces allies, court on state TV closure
(Reuters) – Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras faced a double challenge on Monday from coalition partners furious over the shutdown of state broadcaster ERT and a court hearing that could put the shuttered station back on air.
ERT’s abrupt closure last week in the name of austerity to please EU and IMF lenders triggered a deep rift in the ruling coalition, throwing the debt-choked nation back into turmoil just as faint hopes of a recovery had begun to sprout.
ERT shutdown: European Broadcasting Union sets up makeshift studio
EBU provides satellite news gathering operation in car park outside Greek state broadcaster’s Athens headquarters
(The Guardian) The European Broadcasting Union has stepped in to help Greek TV journalists keep the country’s state broadcaster on air after the government announced on Tuesday night it was closing it down as an austerity measure with immediate effect.
A number of ERT staff have defied the government order, staying overnight in the broadcaster’s headquarters and managing to continue broadcasting a makeshift schedule of news and talk shows.
IMF ‘to admit mistakes’ in handling Greek debt crisis and bailout
Internal reports to suggest International Monetary Fund underestimated the damage austerity would cause to the eurozone country
Documents presented to the Fund’s board last Friday will reveal that the Washington-based organisation underestimated the damage austerity would cause to the eurozone country, which has required two bailouts in the past three years.
The Wall Street Journal reported that the papers would say that financial support from the Fund, the European Central Bank and the European Commission had bought time for Greece but had only been made possible because the IMF had bent its own rules to make the country’s debt look more sustainable than it was. According to the WSJ report, Greece failed to meet three of the Fund’s four tests to qualify for help.
Legal council to assess WWII debts report
Foreign Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos Tuesday submitted a confidential report leaked to the media over the weekend to the head of the State Legal Council, Fokinas Georgakopoulos. The report suggests that Germany owes debt-wracked Greece 162 billion euros in World War II reparations.
Georgakopoulos is to examine the 80-page document, which was drafted by a team of Finance Ministry experts on the basis of substantial archival material and legal decisions, and assess the legality of the claims before submitting a report to the government.
The leaked report concludes that German authorities are obliged to pay Greece 108 billion euros for damage to infrastructure and another 54 billion euros for a loan that the Nazi occupation forces obliged Greece to take in order to pay Berlin during the war. The reparations are equivalent to about 80 percent of Greece’s gross domestic product.
Greece’s troubled economy pushes illegal logging across forests in the countryside
(Planet Ark/WEN) With Greeks already struggling under wage and pension cuts imposed by the foreign lenders that bailed their country out, many have stopped using heating oil altogether, pushing consumption down 70 percent in the last three months of 2012 from a year earlier.
Instead, Greeks are turning burning firewood – using anything from branches to old furniture – which has helped create a blanket of smog over the Greek capital while illegal logging multiplies across forests in the countryside.
Euro zone, IMF secure deal on cutting Greek debt
(Reuters) – Euro zone finance ministers and the International Monetary Fund clinched agreement on reducing Greece’s debt on Monday in a breakthrough to release urgently needed loans to keep the near-bankrupt economy afloat..
Greek government defies protests to approve more austerity
(Reuters) – Greece’s government voted by a razor thin margin on Thursday to approve an austerity package needed to unlock vital aid and avert bankruptcy, despite an internal rift and violent protests at the gates of parliament.
Lawmakers approved the spending cuts, tax hikes and measures making it easier to hire and fire workers after nearly 100,000 Greeks waving flags and chanting “Fight! They’re drinking our blood!” descended on Syntagma Square in central Athens.
Despite the abstention of their junior ruling partner the Democratic Left, Prime Minister Antonis Samaras’s New Democracy Party and its Socialist PASOK allies passed the 500-odd page bill shortly after midnight.
Greece is governed by a corrupt clique, says Kostas Vaxevanis
Acquitted Greek editor adds that only foreign media stopped news of arrest over publication of ‘Lagarde list’ being buried
(The Guardian) Greece is undergoing a crisis of democracy with press censorship at its centre, says the magazine editor in the middle of the media storm that has engulfed Athens. Speaking to the Guardian a day after being cleared of breaching privacy laws, Kostas Vaxevanis said Greece was ruled by a clique of corrupt politicians in thrall to businessmen who owned – and gagged – the media.
“The country is governed by a poisonous combination of politicians, businessmen and journalists who cover one another’s backs. Every day laws are changed, or new laws are voted in, to legitimise illegal deeds.”
With a substantial chunk of the Greek media owned by magnates or financed by banks, journalists were in effect silenced. “It’s tragic. Greeks only ever learn half the truth and that is worse than lies because it has the effect of creating impressions,” he said.
… Politicians had had more than two years to act on the list, handed to Greek authorities by the IMF head, Christine Lagarde, who was then French finance minister, but had not investigated it.
“Lagarde gave similar lists to Germany, France, Spain and Italy, and in each of those countries it was acted on and revenues in turn were accrued. Here, they are constantly saying they will deal with tax evasion, because it is the root of our country’s economic problems, and they did absolutely nothing because there are people on the list who are friends of those in power,” he said.
Why Merkel Wants To Keep Greece in Euro Zone
(Spiegel) Angela Merkel has made a surprising U-turn in her policy on Greece. The German chancellor now wants to stop Athens from leaving the euro zone at all costs — even if it means massaging the figures in the upcoming troika report. For the German leader, it is essential to avoid the consequences of a Grexit before national elections next year.
From Robin Bew, Chief Economist, Economist Intelligence Unit
A novel idea for helping Greece
Among the many economic problems that Greece faces is capital flight, as jittery foreign investors pull their money from the country and park it in safer assets. In an attempt to reverse the trend, the Greek government is proposing to create “special economic zones“, or SEZs, offering tax breaks and other incentives. The plan faces many uncertainties, not least the possibility that SEZs may break EU rules. But if successful, it could provide a welcome influx of new capital and even help to reduce (if only slightly) the country’s debt. My team of analysts and I will be keeping a close eye on this and other policy developments as Greece struggles to avoid the dreaded “Grexit”.
Grexit Showdown — Greece’s Fate to Be Decided at October EU Summit
(Spiegel) European leaders are unconvinced that the Greek government’s austerity efforts will produce quick results. Greece’s fate is now likely to be decided at the EU summit in October. The country’s European partners will have to choose among a number of equally unattractive alternatives.
Greece Before the Abyss Only Bankruptcy Can Help Now
(Spiegel) Greece has disappointed its creditors yet again. Now its government plans to ask for more time — and needs billions more in aid. But Greece’s euro-zone partners are unwilling to provide any more help, meaning that the only hope now is to admit defeat and let the country make a fresh start.
New Project to Save Greece: ‘For a Donation of 3,000 Euros, Every Greek Can Buy Freedom’
(Spiegel) Greek shipping heir Peter Nomikos has taken matters into his own hands. While EU leaders wrangle for a solution to Greece’s problems, Nomikos started a non-profit to wipe out the country’s debt. If all of his countrymen do their part, he tells SPIEGEL ONLINE, they will be able to shore up the country’s finances.
Mohamed A. El-Erian: Greece Needs to Chart a Different Course
(HuffPost) Greece’s political leaders still don’t seem to get it, and neither do its official creditors. The longer this problem persists, the greater the challenge of turning around a country already beset by recession, insolvency, distressingly high unemployment and rising poverty.
Anne-Marie Slaughter: Reinventing the European Dream
(Project Syndicate) … … Natural-gas fields in the Eastern Mediterranean are estimated to hold up to 122 trillion cubic feet, enough to supply the entire world for a year. More gas and large oil fields lie off the Greek coast in the Aegean and Ionian Seas, enough to transform the finances of Greece and the entire region. Israel and Cyprus are planning joint exploration; Israel and Greece are discussing a pipeline; Turkey and Lebanon are prospecting; and Egypt is planning to license exploration.
But politics, as always, intervenes. … In short, the riches, jobs, and development that would flow to all countries in the region from responsible energy exploitation may well be blocked by the insistence of each on getting what it regards as its fair share and denying access to its enemies.
The vision of a Mediterranean Energy Community thus seems destined to remain a pipedream. Yet …
(Foreign Policy) World markets initially responded positively to the election results, which suggested that Greece could remain in the eurozone. But the rally proved short-lived as concerns once again cropped up about the challenges that still face Greece and the eurozone as a whole. This morning, Spain’s borrowing costs rose above 7 percent for the first time since the creation of the euro.
Greek pro-bailout parties look to forge coalition
Political parties supporting Greece’s international bailout will begin forging a government on Monday after an election victory over radical leftists staved off the prospect of the debt-laden country leaving the euro and brought relief to global markets.
NIALL FERGUSON: ‘If There’s Going To Be A Lehman Moment In The Crisis, It’s Going To Be Next Week’
(Business Insider) Harvard professor Niall Ferguson told Bloomberg TV this morning that a Lehman moment could be nearing for the euro crisis as elections in Greece threaten to undermine European stability.
“If there’s going to be a Lehman moment in the crisis it’s going to be next week,” he explained, saying that the back-and-forth between Athens and Berlin is “a game of chicken” that will not be resolved until the power structure in Greece has been decided.
Countries across world gird for Greece turmoil
(Reuters) – The threat of turmoil sweeping across global markets next week if Greece’s election prompts a panicky flight of money from the euro zone has policymakers from Beijing to Zurich preparing to protect their currencies and economies from an unwelcome influx.
Vikram Nehru: The Grexit’s Threat to Southeast Asia
(Carnegie Endowment) Southeast Asian economies are particularly vulnerable to a global slowdown given their direct and indirect trade links with Europe and the United States. Not only will direct exports to Europe take a hit, but component and commodity exports immediately headed to China will also suffer if Chinese exports to the advanced economies are affected, as they almost certainly will be. And a slowing global economy will mean lower commodity prices, leading to still lower export revenues for Southeast Asia.
News Analysis: Keeping Greece in eurozone everyone’s priority
(Xinhua) — As Greek politicians are busy campaigning for parliamentary seats, the question of whether the debt-ridden country will stay in the eurozone remains unanswered.
German analysts say unforeseen consequences might be brought about by a possible Greek exit from the single currency club. The eurozone members will therefore do everything possible to keep Greece within the bloc.
Even if Greece stays, eurozone faces huge challenges
OECD joins call for eurozone bonds
(Financial Times via CNN) — The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development has joined French and EU officials in calling for a move towards jointly-guaranteed eurobonds at a time it sees as perilous for the global economy.
In its twice-yearly economic outlook, the Paris-based international organisation which specialises in economic policy for advanced economies, warned of a vicious circle in the eurozone, “involving high and rising sovereign indebtedness, weak banking systems, excessive fiscal consolidation and lower growth”.
What could happen next if Greece leaves the eurozone?
Click on the labels on the graphic to read more about some of the possible consequences.
G8 leaders end summit with pledge to keep Greece in eurozone
US and France succeed in putting promotion of growth at top of communique despite Germany’s resistance to stimulus package
Nouriel Roubini: Greece Must Exit
(Project Syndicate) The Greek euro tragedy is reaching its final act: it is clear that either this year or next, Greece is highly likely to default on its debt and exit the eurozone.
Postponing the exit after the June election with a new government committed to a variant of the same failed policies (recessionary austerity and structural reforms) will not restore growth and competitiveness. Greece is stuck in a vicious cycle of insolvency, lost competitiveness, external deficits, and ever-deepening depression. The only way to stop it is to begin an orderly default and exit, coordinated and financed by the European Central Bank, the European Commission, and the International Monetary Fund (the “Troika”), that minimizes collateral damage to Greece and the rest of the eurozone.
Greece to hold new election, jolts euro markets
Attempts to form a government in Greece collapsed on Tuesday, jolting financial markets at the prospect leftists opposed to the terms of an EU bailout could sweep to victory and nudge the euro zone crisis into a dangerous new phase.
EU central bankers ponder Greece euro exit
(BBC) Europe central bankers have been openly expressing views on the possibility of Greece leaving the eurozone as its leaders struggle to form a government. BUT How would Greece leave the euro?
… one major issue is that there simply is no mechanism to leave the euro. It was never envisaged by the bright-eyed politicians who created the impetus for the currency, which debuted in 1999.
“The [Maastricht Treaty] doesn’t foresee an exit from the eurozone without exiting the EU,” the European Commission has said. … The option of leaving the EU was only added in Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty in 2007. So under its current obligations, for Greece to exit the euro or be thrown out, it would have to leave the EU.
Pensioner’s Death Sparks Clashes in Athens
(Der Spiegel) In a note found in his clothing, the man reportedly blamed the debt crisis and austerity measures for his suicide.
Goldman Secret Greece Loan Shows Two Sinners as Client Unravels
(Bloomberg) Greece’s secret loan from Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (GS) was a costly mistake from the start.
On the day the 2001 deal was struck, the government owed the bank about 600 million euros ($793 million) more than the 2.8 billion euros it borrowed, said Spyros Papanicolaou, who took over the country’s debt-management agency in 2005. By then, the price of the transaction, a derivative that disguised the loan and that Goldman Sachs persuaded Greece not to test with competitors, had almost doubled to 5.1 billion euros, he said.
New Greek Government Runs Out of Steam
(Spiegel) Six weeks after forming a transitional government to overcome its crisis, Greece is still failing to deliver its promised reforms. The cabinet of Prime Minister Lucas Papademos is deeply divided and has lost the public’s confidence. Even the most urgent measures have ground to a halt.
Eurozone gives Greece $10.7 billion lifeline, stumble over plans to beef up rescue fund
(ipolitics) The ministers did agree to use the fund to offer financial protection of 20 to 30 per cent to investors who bought new bonds of troubled eurozone nations, an effort to help those countries get back to borrowing on global markets again.
(Reuters) – With the European Union demanding a quick resolution to the political crisis, Prime Minister George Papandreou sealed a deal on Sunday with the conservative opposition on the crisis coalition to approve the international financial aid package. … But whoever leads the transitional government of national unity will have a monumental task in restoring order to a country whose chaotic economy and politics are shaking international confidence in the entire euro project.
Greece calls off referendum on Euro bailout
(FP) Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou canceled a referendum on a new deal with Euro zone countries to limit Greek’s debt. His decision came after winning some support from Greece’s opposition, but a confidence vote on Friday and an internal rebellion within his Socialist Party still threaten his rule.
CHART OF THE DAY: Today’s Epic Greek Pandemonium In One Huge Chart
A Greek drama
(The Economist) GREECE is not only the cradle of democracy, but of drama. The latter in particular was in rich supply after George Papandreou, the country’s prime minister, hastily announced a plan for a referendum on the new bail-out package that had been approved at last week’s European Union (EU) summit. First Mr Papandreou had to confront a hostile cabinet (although it has since endorsed the idea of a referendum). Then he faced the threat of a rebellion by his Panhellenic Socialist Movement (Pasok). (Spiegel) EU Shocked and Furious at Greek Referendum Plan (The Guardian) Greek government on brink as referendum call triggers market slump ; (BBC) Greece’s Papandreou in crisis talks over bailout revolt ; The Guardian offers minute-by-minute coverage
Europe’s leaders have agreed on how to prop up the euro. For now
(The Economist) … the euro zone has woken up from the lie that Greece could one day repay its debts. A supposedly confidential new assessment of Greece’s prospects, drawn up earlier this month by the “troika” of the ECB, the IMF and the European Commission, makes dire reading. Austerity has pushed Greece further into recession than expected; this year output is expected to shrink by 5.5%, and the country will not return to growth until 2013. Moreover, structural reforms to boost growth have been implemented slowly while the forecast for European economies has dimmed, further darkening the outlook for Greece.
Costas Douzinas: Greece’s lines now are clear
The Greek elite that tried to push through policies on the back of a deficit it fuelled stands alone and accused
(The Guardian) After two days of massive strikes and street battles, Greece seems to be edging ever closer to the brink. As European leaders gather this Sunday in a last ditch bid to save the euro, a Greek author condemns the national elites that have brought his country to this juncture.
Greek rescue – if only
By Reuven Brenner
(Asia Times) Consider first the demographic issues surrounding Greece and Europe, and see how they are linked to potential solutions.
In a world where political institutions would be stable within a country, and sufficiently similar across countries, capital should flow from the older to the younger generations, be it within a country or across borders. Whether private entities or governments make the promises to pay, the fulfillment of promises depend on returns from the thus-financed investments. Then, either directly, or, indirectly, through taxes, these returns, paid back by future generations would then support the retired generations in their rainy days, be it health or age-related.
But what if there are no future generations? Or diminishing number of them?
Europe’s Own Arms Dealers and Loan Peddlers Took Down Greece
Profit-hungry bankers, weapons makers pushed EU member over brink.
(The Tyee) There has been much finger wagging from Germany about the need for Greek fiscal restraint and discipline, but what role have the German arms industry and predatory European banks played in creating this crisis? Over the last decade, Greece has been the largest importer of conventional military hardware in the European Union. Greek military spending as a percentage of GDP is more than any other EU member and tops even nations such as Pakistan, which is engaged in a variety of ongoing conflicts. [Emphasis added]
Analysis: Moment of truth nears for Greece, euro zone
(Reuters) – Between now and mid-December, the sheer onslaught of high-level gatherings — whether euro zone finance officials, EU leaders or the G20 — is likely to force a resolution of the most pressing issues confronting policymakers as they battle to get to grips with Greece, Spain and Italy.
Kimon Valaskakis responds to the Stratfor analysis
Portfolio: Preparing for Greece’s Failure
(Stratfor) Greece simply can’t compete unless it is being given a constant, steady supply of capital from abroad that it doesn’t necessarily have to pay back. And even if that could be restarted, Greece can not emerge from its own debt load. It is simply too large. Greece has to be kicked out of the eurozone if the euro is to survive … The EFSF expansion has to happen because if you cannot sequester the 280 billion euro of Greek government debt that exists outside of Greece, then you’re going to trigger a massive financial catastrophe that the eurozone simply can’t survive. And so to prepare for a Greek ejection, you have to prepare a fund that can handle three things more or less simultaneously. First, you need about 400 billion euro to firebreak Greece off from the rest of eurozone. Second, you need about 800 billion euro in order to prevent a wide-scale banking meltdown, because the day that Greece defaults on that debt, the day that it’s ejected from eurozone, there will be catastrophic banking collapses in Portugal, Italy, Spain and France, probably in that order.
Third, the markets will go wild and the state that is in the most danger of falling after Greece is Italy. So until the Europeans have 2 trillion euro in funding stashed away, they can’t kick Greece out of the system. [Emphasis added]
Debt-Choked Greece Seeks Solar Bonanza
(Planet Ark) Sun-baked and debt-choked Greece presented on Monday a plan to become Europe’s solar energy powerhouse, attracting up to 20 billion euros of investment in the decades to come to lift its economy out of the doldrums. … The ambitious plan, called “Project Helios,” involves multiplying Greek solar power production from 206 megawatts(MW) in 2010 to 2.2 gigawatts (GW) by 2020 and up to 10 GW by 2050, according to an Energy Ministry presentation.
The euro-zone crisis summit: Russian or Belgian roulette?
(The Economist) … In order to address the threat of contagion, the leaders decided that the main bail-out fund, the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF), would be made more flexible so that it could fight smaller fires before they became uncontrolled blazes. It would be able to extend short-term lines of credit, recapitalise banks and buy the bonds of vulnerable countries on the secondary market. … For more on this, see Bagehot’s Notebook Britain changes its mind about a two-speed Europe).
Europe agrees sweeping new action on debt crisis
(Reuters) – Euro zone leaders have agreed on a bold rescue package for debt-stricken Greece and will give their financial rescue fund sweeping new powers to prevent market instability spreading through the region. … a second bailout for Athens involving an extra 109 billion euros ($157 billion) of government money, plus a substantial contribution from private sector bondholders.
Andres Velasco: How to End the Greek Tragedy
(Project Syndicate) The EU is pinning its hopes on one mechanism to reduce Greek debt: loans from the European Financial Stability Facility that would allow Greece to buy its own debt at a discount in the secondary market. But, while allowing the EFSF to finance buybacks is a step forward, a slew of theoretical and empirical research, generated by developing countries’ efforts to buy back their debt in the 1980’s and 1990’s, has shown that it is far from a cure-all.
Nouriel Roubini: The Eurozone’s Last Stand
(Project Syndicate) The eurozone crisis is reaching its climax. Greece is insolvent. Portugal and Ireland have recently seen their bonds downgraded to junk status. Spain could still lose market access as political uncertainty adds to its fiscal and financial woes. Financial pressure on Italy is now mounting.
… the only realistic and sensible solution is an orderly and market-oriented – but coercive – restructuring of the entire Greek public debt. But how can debt relief be achieved for the sovereign without imposing massive losses on Greek banks and foreign banks holding Greek bonds?
The answer is to emulate the response to sovereign-debt crises in Uruguay, Pakistan, Ukraine, and many other emerging-market economies, where orderly exchange of old debt for new debt had three features: an identical face value (so-called “par” bonds); a long maturity (20-30 years); and interest set well below the currently unsustainable market rates – and close to or below the original coupon.
Rodrigue Tremblay — Greece and the Euro: A Time of Excessive and Unproductive Debt and of Financial Implosion
… Indeed, membership in a monetary union and the adoption of a common currency for a group of countries can be a powerful instrument to stimulate economic and productivity growth, with low inflation, when such monetary unions are well designed structurally, but they can also turn into an economic nightmare when they are not.
Unfortunately for many poorer European members of the euro monetary union, the rules for a viable monetary union were not followed, and its unraveling in the coming years, although deplorable, should be of no great surprise to anyone knowledgeable in international finance.
IMF urges private sector to share Greek burden
(FT) Euro finance ministers have moved towards forcing investors to accept reduction in asset values, in spite of ECB attitude
Eurozone governments warned on bail-outs
(FT) Eurozone governments should not assume the private sector will participate in a new Greek bail-out deal, the European Central Bank has warned
Playing Make-Believe With Greece
(NYT) As the tear gas cleared in Athens this week — and the Greek Parliament agreed to a new round of austerity that will raise unemployment and prolong a debilitating recession that almost certainly will ensure that the latest fiscal targets are missed — the critical concern seemed to be making sure that no financial institution will ever have to admit making a bad loan. [emphasis added]
What have we become?
(The Economist) As Greece’s 300 legislators debated, and finally approved, an internationally backed financial-rescue plan with many clear downsides—it will pile pain onto hapless firms and citizens who already pay taxes, for instance, and so subsidise those who do not …
A group of 18 Greek economists (mostly from the nation’s academic diaspora, in flight from the cronyism and disorder that mar campuses back home) listed some of the likely results if the country opted for autarky: in other words, if it stopped paying its debt and rejected the idea of moving, with foreign help, towards fiscal and administrative health. Public-sector wages would plunge, banks would crash, the country would be barred from world debt markets for years. Leaving the euro could cause hyperinflation.
Greek Vote Obscures Europe’s Unsavory Choices: View
(Bloomberg) Today, the Greek government will try to push through Parliament an austerity package to avert a default on billions of euros in government debt. Success, though, will only postpone an unsavory choice that the euro area’s leaders will face sooner or later: Let Greece go and put both the European experiment and the global economy at risk, or forge a deeper union in the face of opposition from their voters.
Greece’s foibles, though, would not have led to a crisis without the help of Germany and France. They set the precedent when, for three years beginning in 2002, they exceeded the prescribed budget-deficit limits with impunity.
Arianna Huffington: Postcard From Greece: This Should Not Be About Austerity, It’s About the Future of Democracy
(HuffPost) Given that the Greeks invented democracy, it’s only fitting that they’re now being given the chance to reinvent it. … Until I went over and witnessed what’s happening, I too had become convinced that the real issues were the ones the media were obsessively covering: the effects of a potential sovereign default on the Euro and worries about the crisis spreading to other European countries. But here’s the bigger issue: Can a truly democratic movement break the stranglehold of corrupt elites and powerful anti-democratic institutional forces that have come to characterize not just the politics of Greece, but most Western democracies, including our own?
Democracy’s Cradle, Rocking the World
by Mark Mazower
(NYT via The Greek Crisis) Yesterday, the whole world was watching Greece as its Parliament voted to pass a divisive package of austerity measures that could have critical ramifications for the global financial system.
It may come as a surprise that this tiny tip of the Balkan Peninsula could command such attention. We usually think of Greece as the home of Plato and Pericles, its real importance lying deep in antiquity. But this is hardly the first time that to understand Europe’s future, you need to turn away from the big powers at the center of the continent and look closely at what is happening in Athens. For the past 200 years, Greece has been at the forefront of Europe’s evolution.
Greece: The moment of truth
(BBC) Last year 400,000 jobs were lost. Almost every street in Athens has boarded-up shops where owners cannot pay their loans. The despair and bitterness are palpable.
For this year an extra 6.5bn euros (£5.8bn) in cuts needs to be found. The middle class will face a solidarity tax. The threshold at which Greeks start paying tax will drop from 12,000 euros to 8,000 euros. The self-employed will be hit with a tax levy.
By 2015 a total of 28bn euros of savings have been earmarked. A fifth of civil service jobs are set to disappear and 50bn euros must be found from privatisations.
Gwynne Dyer — International finance: Nowhere to hide
(Tehran Times) As the IMF recently warned, “A disorderly outcome cannot be excluded.” It was hinting that the euro itself might crash, taking the European or even the global economy down with it — and yet China seems strangely unworried.
Greece and the euro The brewing storm
George Papandreou’s new government has passed its first pressing test. But disaster may still loom
It is entirely possible that in the weeks to come the situation in Athens could go from being strained, angry and confused to plain catastrophic: negotiations between Greece’s economic rescuers and its political leaders may fail, and the state may run out of money and/or crash out of the euro, triggering a financial crisis that would reverberate round the world.
The euro crisis If Greece goes…
(The Economist) The opportunity for Europe’s leaders to avoid disaster is shrinking fast
Don’t Believe These Greek Myths
(WSJ) As the Greek turmoil swirls, some commonly held beliefs are worth debunking:
1. Greece is insolvent.
No, it isn’t. …
2. It is in Greece’s interest to default.
Hardly. The country is still running a large primary deficit, so even if it inflicted 50% “haircuts” on bondholders, it would still need to borrow money immediately or face huge spending cuts overnight to balance the books. Worse, the Greek banking system would collapse as its capital was wiped out and its funding dried up; under European Central Bank rules, Greek government bonds would no longer be eligible as collateral. Nor would it make life easier if Greece tried to leave the euro, since this would likely trigger an immediate run on its banks. Read more
The Great Greek Illusion
By ROGER COHEN
(NYT) Past glory is a wonderful thing — and a lousy guide for present policy. That’s true in the Holy Land, in Kosovo and in Athens. Greece should not have been allowed into the euro. It failed to join in 1999 because it did not meet fiscal criteria. When it did meet them in 2001, the fix came through phony budget numbers.
Spartan: Disciplined, frugal. Greece: Certainly not Sparta
Greece’s troubles deepen
(Globe & Mail via CTV) Watching the steady collapse of Greece, one is tempted to contrast its troubles with the power of Sparta in its glory days. Not the military bit, of course, but certainly the discipline and frugality that came to be the hallmark of the ancient Greek city-state.
Euro economists expect Greek default, BBC survey finds
Two-thirds of respondents predicted a default. However, most thought the euro would survive in its current form.
(Bloomberg) Greek Crisis Timeline From Maastricht Treaty to Election Rerun
A little historical context: ‘Germany Was Biggest Debt Transgressor of 20th Century’
(Spiegel Online) Economic historian Albrecht Ritschl argues [that Germany] has been the worst debtor nation of the past century.
More recent historical context supplied by Guy Stanley who comments
Historians try to remember that events in the past were once in the future. Here’s the IMF exec sum of their Article IV Greece consultation report from 2007.
• The Greek economy has been buoyant for several years and growth is expected to remain robust for some time. The risks to the outlook are tilted to the downside. In the near term, risks stem from a weaker external environment and a potential liquidity squeeze of banks. Over the longer-term, a persistent loss of competitiveness raises the prospect of a prolonged period of slow growth. Averting this risk requires improving cost competitiveness through wage moderation, an environment that encourages product upgrading, and a broadened effort to reform product and labor markets.
• The Greek banking sector appears to be sound and has thus far remained largely unaffected by the financial market turmoil. However, continued rapid credit growth and increasing presence in southeastern Europe (SEE), financed partly by wholesale funding, have increased banks’ exposure to credit, country, and liquidity risks. Appropriate steps have been taken to strengthen supervision and foster cooperation with SEE supervisors, but stress testing needs to be upgraded.
• The authorities are pursuing further fiscal consolidation with the goal of achieving a balanced budget by 2010. Given the high level of public debt and anticipated aging pressures, further adjustment thereafter to a surplus position is necessary. Revenue objectives for 2008–10 are ambitious; their achievement will require further revenue enhancing measures. Reforms to tax administration and expenditure management are being implemented, and will need to be broadened.
• A gradualist approach is being taken on pension reform. The reform agenda is narrow and the policy proposals are lacking full assessment of financing needs and cost savings. While staff sees a need for greater ambition, the authorities view their reform strategy as politically realistic.
• Structural reforms have been put in place, but impediments to higher productivity remain. Important initiatives are underway to improve the business environment. However, enhancing competition and reducing labor market rigidities remain challenges.
Be sure to read the Comments on the Greek Crisis below.
15 Comments on "Greece, EU and world economy 2011-2013"
Roger Cohen’s column The Great Greek Illusion is uncharacteristically unsympathetic to the real victims, namely the Greek people. It suggests that the EU admission of Greece was a mistake and that the European Monetary System neglect of its public debt management institutions is only natural. It is worth remembering that the US did not have a central bank until 1913, a year after the completion of the contiguous union with the establishment of Arizona, Oklahoma and New Mexico. …
Among the absurdities in holding the Greeks solely responsible for taking advantage of the mispriced Euro denominated debt is that it puts the onus on a small, weak economy to “save” Europe and “western civilization”, a kind of financial Thermopylae in which the Greeks must hold the pass, i.e. take a full hit. Instead, what we should be seeing is a repeat of 1907–the banks themselves stepping up and providing the market assurance. If that requires some public support, then the discussion should be the price to be paid by the banks–not the Greek people. Greek entry into the EU offered some political as well economic improvements. Now ironically the Greek people are reminding us that dictatorship –whether by colonels or bankers–is still dictatorship.
Greece suffered one of the highest per capita losses of any nation during WWII, which were estimated in 1945 by the Allies at $14.2 billion. The Greek quisling government was forced to give a loan to Nazi Germany in 1943, the gold reserves of the Bank of Greece were transferred to Berlin, and Greece suffered huge material damages, not to mention that human casualties reached almost 10% of the Greek population. 250,000 people are estimated to have died from sheer starvation in the winter of 1943 because all food and resources had been forcibly re-commissioned to Germany. My mother recounted to me numerous stories of this horrific experience, including once they found a dead man on the front steps of her home in Piraeus. [On] a walk through the city early in the mornings you could see countless bodies of people lying dead on sidewalks and in parks as a result of the famine of that winter. Hyper inflation hit Greece hard during this period and courtesy of my mom I still have in my possession Greek bank notes denominated in millions.
Germany has only given back to Greece a token amount of $96 million in 1959. The rest were promised following German reunification which took place in 1990. Germany is estimated to have spent 1.5 trillion to rebuild East Germany. … Sometimes I have wondered why Greece has not pressed harder for some form of restitution and the answer I have heard is that now that Greece is in the EU and the Euro we should let bygones be bygones. Ken
Thank you all for the very interesting debates and points of view on the Greek Crisis. I am in Paris just back from Greece and preparing a paper on the same subject following an extensive set of interviews which I have conducted both in Athens and Western Europe with key analysts and officials (including a few cab drivers who are surprisingly sophisticated on these matters).
Yes, the Greeks invented democracy. Direct democracy. Not the kind where people get votes for promising to double state pensions. (Andreas Papandreou, ex.U.S. Navy, former Economics professor at Stanford, late father of the current P.M.) People like government handouts and services, and hate paying taxes. If their votes are governed by these sentiments, the sure-fire winning vote-getter is to increase the national debt, and generously distribute the receipts. The process can be carried until someone, usually a rating agency, begins to question the ability of the borrower to repay At that point, holders of bonds will not replace expiring issues, others will try to sell. Using different language, everyone begins to see that the emperor has no clothes.(I wish this situation were confined to Greece alone! )
Then there is the Greek on Syntagma square, who argues that he has no business suffering the consequences of decisions in which he did not participate. He sincerely believes that, but then who voted for the borrow-and-distribute politicians? In the classical Athenian democracy, the voting citizen had reasonable oversight of what he voted for. The Syntagma demonstrator for the most part did not.
Someone more competent than I might speculate on the relationship between Athenian democracy, and the process called democracy to-day.
The direct losses on the Greek debt have been incurred. The current debate is about who shall bear what portion of the loss. Until that is settled, there is a danger of the total loss increasing through various financial transmission mechanisms. Here enlightened self-interest and appeals to compassion should come into play. The Greeks are not very lucky. To-day’s Handelsblatt carries a bouquet of featherbedding practices in Greece, certainly unknown to its German readers. Some get up to 18 months of salary each years, locomotive drivers get special allowances for washing their hands, some for appearing at work at all, for the time it takes to warm-up their cars on their way to work in the morning etc. Not much to arouse compassion!
Thanks for keeping this discussion going, I am looking forward to its continuation.
There are indeed a lot of interesting themes in this topic. One is the –for me immensely discouraging–way that national passions and economic interests have flared up again in Europe, despite the years of political and economic semi-integration that it was hoped would keep the focus on European rather than national interests. Fuelled by wartime memories and class divisions, this line of development is unlikely to end well. Another theme is the supposed morality or immorality of debts vs. surpluses: technically and ceteris paribus , etc.–the one is the flip side of the other whenever double entry book keeping is used to keep score, as it is in national and international accounts. The banks mispriced Greek debt and were encouraged to do by shortcomings in EU debt management arrangements–which by the way were not respected even by the major market countries in recent years. It is therefore a European problem as much as it is a Greek one. The obvious and most practical solution is that the EU assume some or all of the Greek debt and issue Eurobonds to a level to be negotiated with the banks in return for financial restructuring to make the system more resilient and then work out an equalization formula with the other PIIS countries. Fantasy levels of austerity and unravelling Europe ought to be seen as spectacularly contrary to anyone’s interests. One wonders why there is not more concern about this.
Guy, is there a structure to have those Eurobonds you envisage remain liabilities of the Eurozone countries only, or would you extend the liabilities to the U.K. and the other non-EURO Eu members as well? Tony
Tony, What a wonderful question. I hadn’t actually thought about it. The whole business is really touch and go. The BIS reports that in effect France, Germany & the UK already bought up about 95% of the PIIGs debt and then took out credit default swaps with the US to the tune of $193 Billion, i.e. about $10 Billion more than the AIG losses that TARP covered. A Greek default then could clearly tank the west in a repeat of 2008. (This from inside futures). What is for sure is that (a) just recycling the debt through new wads of paper will simply spike the gold price, (b) torturing Greece to become Switzerland is fanciful. One is left with (c) –Pulling the EU together around a common bond issue & a reinvigorated financial integration that scraps [the] woefully misnamed Stability and Growth Pact for some kind of equalization system linked to economic performance. The much maligned “technocrats” that created the single market project from the top down would I think definitely have fought to add a stronger foundation. But their beneficiaries? Perhaps they got what they wanted (German re-unification, end to Russian occupation, and a virtual veto over the prosperity of their partners). We’ll see.
Thanks, Guy. Having gone to the website cited, I discovered a theory whereby the US taxpayer ends up holding the bag for the Greek default. In the absence of a default, US banks will have earned good insurance premiums, and the German and French bondholders, depending on the terms attached to the contracts, might fare worse than in the default situation. Why then, do the Europeans bother trying to prevent the default? Am puzzled! Tony
I think there may be a larger game–between those interests such as France which designed Europe, work it to their advantage and for various reasons beyond the merely economic, need Europe, and others who are hoping to shape post-crisis Europe according to their priorities rather than French ones. Holding the stakes–not for the first time..in fact for just about every time since the Great War–the US, perhaps too consumed with its own issues to have fully understood its interests in Europe. Maybe some things just don’t change.
Further to Guy’s comment about “It is worth remembering that the US did not have a central bank until 1913”.
Actually, the US still does not have a central bank. First of all, the US Constitution forbids the establishment of a central bank, or to put it correctly, it does not give power to Congress to establish a Central bank, (maybe due to the founding fathers’ memory about how the British Central Bank funded the then recent wars).
Instead, in 1913, at Jekyll Island (the private island owned by J.P. Morgan and others) seven representatives of J.P. Morgan, Rockefeller, Rothschild, Warburg and Kuhn-Loeb, representing “one-sixth of the total wealth of the world” got together to form the “Federal Reserve Bank” (which is really neither a Federal institution, nor a Bank) to take care of managing the money supply of the United States.
No wonder that some of these banks were bailed out in 2007-9 not like the ones not part of this cartel!
Which is exactly what it is, a cartel, because they are the only ones who control the money supply of the US, by issuing (printing) money at a given cost.
I fully agree with Kimon’s hypothesis that the underlying problem is not Greece-specific. It probably goes back to the Cold War. Italy, France, Greece, Portugal and Spain had influential communist parties/movements, sometimes legal, sometimes illegal. The containment doctrine (Kennan) implied that the Soviet zone of influence best be confined to where the Red Army found itself in 1945. New communist governments in Europe were not to be welcomed. The conventional wisdom of those days held, that having generous social programmes run by Social Democratic, Christian Democratic, and Christian Socialist governments are preventive devices that will keep the communists out. Whether or not that theory was right, I cannot tell, but the Soviets did fail to expand in Europe. In any case, the Soviet danger is gone, but the welfare states remain.
Along comes the demographic transition, with the price tags on the welfare arrangements rising. Cutting “entitlements” is a vote-loser, so is raising taxes. The self-interest of politicians of all parties is to finance welfare schemes out of borrowed money, so that the unavoidable loss of popularity will accrue to some other politicians down the road. The end of that road has come in Greece, and it is pretty close in Italy, Portugal and Spain. I fear that we shall have opportunities to add France and Belgium to our list before long.
Who shall pay for Greece’s debts? .. What I would keep in mind, is that whatever is done for Greece, will most likely have to be done for the rest of the countries on the list. With some potential outcomes, it may turn out that not the weak economies will be tempted to leave the Eurozone, but the strong ones.
Re Europe’s Own Arms Dealers and Loan Peddlers Took Down Greece
The sad thing is that there is nothing peculiarly Greek about this, it can happen anywhere. 1.Politicians seek votes by spending money. 2.People are unhappy about paying taxes, and will penalize politicians who force them to pay, at the ballot box. 3. Politicians solve the dilemma by spending money borrowed, with the repayment to be worried about by someone in the future. 4. The game is up when the lenders are forced to recognize that there is a potential repayment problem. QED Tony
Your political theorem cannot be denied as it is, after all, QED. What it also does, regrettably in fact, is also prove that my comments on the Grecian situation are probably correct. Greece is simply the latest and best known current example of your theorem; however, I suspect the effects are far greater than any of us had contemplated and we have yet to hear from Italy, Spain, Portugal and Ireland. Hopefully, France will not be in that number. SK
A good and relevant article which confirms in my mind the idea that the facile explanation of the Greek Crisis being ’caused’ by lazy workers, corrupt civil servants and tax evaders was fundamentally wrong. The above were aggravating factors but not causal.
The now world-wide indignation movement which started in Spain, then Greece and now is even in the United States, demonstrates the existence of a severe social fracture between the very rich and the very poor, with middle class disappearing. Unless held in check and alleviated, it could well lead some countries to civil war.
The wrongs have to be corrected, otherwise it is lose-lose for everyone. Kimon
Larke & DaweThe Greek Economy Very, very droll. … An aspect of the EU problem less discussed in this video is that although the $ goes to Greece it then immediately goes to “bondholders” who seem to be mainly banks who themselves need these infusions because they’ve “over invested” in Greece. The “austerity” seems to be a one-way street…on the backs of people at or near the low end of the food chain rather than those at the top who made the decisions leading to this mess. Instead of a social-democratic bulwark of democracy against fascism, the EU seems to have become a “universal” collection agency throwing taxpayer money at a technically bankrupt group of financiers. Who signed up for that? There are alternative solutions, but they seem to have disappeared from the table: long overdue reorganization of both the financial sector and completing the federalization of Europe. The Chinese are right: who now would lend these “leaders” a dime, given the terms presently on the table?
The election result in Greece is hailed as a great victory for all of Europe. It is not. The very same crooks who created this mess, falsified statistics, stole the monies and lied to everybody, are now forming the “new” government. The rest of EU will be administering artificial respiration to a corpse already dead.
Greece now has a fair prospect to carry on over the summer. On August 20th they are supposed to service their debt again. There is no money, no agreement on new loans or [their] terms and the Greeks might well refuse to accept the needed package altogether. Moreover, it is quite silly to discuss any new terms with Greece as she has not observed any of the previous ones either.
The most likely scenario is a very hot summer. The Greeks will take to the streets and burn down the center of Athens. This, however is unlikely to solve the problem.
How to save the Greeks from the Greeks is the true Gordian Knot.
I don’t drop many remarks, but i did a few searching and wound up here Greece, EU and world economy 2011-2012 | Wednesday-Night. And I actually do have a couple of questions for you if it’s allright. Is it simply me or does it appear like a few of these remarks look as if they are coming from brain dead individuals? 😛 And, if you are writing at other online social sites, I would like to follow everything new you have to post. Would you list of all of your social pages like your Facebook page, twitter feed, or linkedin profile?