Greece must default, dump euro

by Peter Morici
UPI
September 13, 2011

European efforts at economic integration haven’t delivered sustainable prosperity in poorer nations like Greece and Portugal. Instead, these have left Mediterranean governments teetering on bankruptcy and at the mercy of Germany and other rich states that exploit European unity to live well at the expense of their poorer brethren.

The 1992 Maastricht Treaty, which considerably harmonized product and safety regulations and methods of taxation across Europe, was supposed to remove untold barriers to growth. It didn’t, because it didn’t moderate European labor laws and social programs that discourage individual ambition and investment.

The euro, created in 1999, floats against the dollar and yen and its value reflects an average of the competitiveness of its entire membership. This leaves higher productivity economies like Germany with an undervalued currency and trade surpluses and lower productivity economies like Greece with an overvalued currency and in constant need to borrow from foreign investors.

With Maastricht and the euro, German manufactures and technology became more valuable in a more integrated European market. However, Greece, Portugal and others aren’t able to use their lower labor costs to capture assembly plants to the degree, for example, that the U.S. South attracts automotive and high-end electronics manufacturing.

Moreover, Germany and other rich states continue subtle forms of protection that discourage outsourcing even to other EU member states and this frustrates the EU single market promise to more effectively equalize employment opportunities and prosperity between the prosperous core and southern Europe.

Affluent Germany, unburdened by an obligation to share tax revenues with poorer EU states, provides generous pensions, gold-plated employment security and jobless benefits and the shortest workweek on the planet. Meanwhile, governments in Greece and other poorer EU states struggled to keep up and borrowed extensively from banks in Germany and France and other rich countries to keep up.

Now unable borrow anymore in private markets, Greece and other poorer governments are forced to seek emergency loans and concessions from richer states and private creditors. They are being compelled by Germany and others to slash government spending and social benefits, dramatically raise taxes and sell off public assets.

None of this will work, because the private sectors of these economies are so dependent on government spending to maintain employment that austerity will only cause more layoffs among both private businesses and public agencies, thrust their economies into deep recessions and significantly reduce, rather than enhance, their governments’ capacity to tax and pay interest on their debts.

Moreover, to service their restructured debts, poorer governments must pay richer governments and foreign creditors in euros and this will require their economies to accomplish significant trade surpluses by developing new export industries. This would require Germany and the rich countries to let manufacturing activities and jobs migrate south that they heretofore have blocked from moving to lower-wage economies.

With a single currency, building new export industries would require rather substantial cuts in Greek and other poorer country wages and for the Germans and others to relinquish subtle forms of protection that guarantee them higher wages and favorable trade balances.

It is doubtful Greeks are willing to let their economy sink to Third World status to perpetuate the myth of European unity. As important, the Germans too much like lecturing the world about the virtues of Teutonic thrift and efficiency to let go of mercantilism, and to let debtor nations accomplish trade surpluses and obtain the euro needed to repay their debts.

If Greece had its own currency, it would still have had to reduce government spending, increase taxes and cut wages but not by nearly as much as richer EU states and the ECB now demand because Greece could also devalue its currency against those of richer EU economies to make its exports more competitive, accelerate growth and increase debt servicing capacity.

In the end, necessity will trump pan-Europeanism. The Greeks will default on their debt and, if they are smart, eventually dump the euro.

Peter Morici is a professor at the Smith School of Business, University of Maryland School, and former chief economist at the U.S. International Trade Commission.

European Bankers Readying to Ransack Greek Treasure

An ‘orderly default’ of Greece means bankers will finally collect what they fraudulently acquired through indebtedness.

By
UK Telegraph
September 12, 2011

Philipp Roesler, Germany’s economy minister, said an “orderly default” for Greece could no longer be ruled out and branded the country’s deficit-reduction measures “insufficient”.

The warning is likely to spook financial markets further and comes despite Greece yesterday announcing a fresh €2bn (£1.7bn) of budget cuts and the introduction of a country-wide real estate tax.

Evangelos Venizelos, the finance minister, said the cuts and tax measure were necessary to allow Greece to meet obligations demanded by the European Union and IMF in exchange for bail-out funds.

Writing in the Die Welt newspaper, Mr Roesler said: “To stabilise the euro, we must not take anything off the table in the short run. That includes as a worst-case scenario an orderly default for Greece if the necessary instruments for it are available.”

He said such a default would mean “re-establishing the affected state’s ability to function, perhaps with a temporary restriction of its sovereign rights”.

Mr Roesler’s comments come as Germany’s Der Spiegel magazine said finance minister Wolfgang Schaeuble had ordered preparations be made for a Greek bankruptcy. The report claimed the German government is preparing for two eventualities under that scenario – Greece staying in the euro or the country exiting and reintroducing the drachma. Despite the speculation, the European Commission said it was sending a team to Athens “in the next few days” tasked with finalising the payment of a new tranche of loans for Greece by the end of the month.

EU economy commissioner Olli Rehn said the team – which represents the troika of the Commission, the European Central Bank and the IMF – would “provide technical support to the Greek authorities”. The previous team was pulled out of Athens earlier this month because of a lack of progress by the Greek government in reducing its deficit.

Mr Rehn on Sunday praised Greece’s new cuts, saying they would “go a long way to meeting the fiscal targets” for 2010 and 2011. “Greece needs to meet the agreed fiscal targets and implement the agreed structural reforms to fulfil the conditionality and ensure funding from its partners,” he said.

G7 finance ministers late on Friday vowed to “take all necessary actions to ensure the resilience of banking systems and financial markets”. However, underlining the difficulties facing German authorities, a survey showed 53pc of Germans oppose further aid for Greece and would not save the country from default should it fail to fulfil loan criteria.

Despite Debt Deal, Greece Set to Default

Merkel and Sarkozy’s window dressing appearances were only that. No aid package will save Greece from defaulting. Lining up now Portugal, Spain and the U.S.

Reuters
July 25, 2011

Moody’s cut Greece’s credit rating further into junk territory on Monday and said it was almost certain to slap a default tag on its debt as a result of a new EU rescue package.

It was the second rating agency to warn of a default after euro zone leaders and banks agreed last week that the private sector would shoulder part of the burden of a rescue deal that offers Greece more cash and easier loan terms to keep it afloat and avoid further contagion.

“The announced EU program along with the Institute of International Finance’s statement implies that the probability of a distressed exchange, and hence a default, on Greek government bonds is virtually 100 percent,” Moody’s said in a statement.

Bank lobby IIF, which led private sector negotiations, aims to attract 90 percent investor participation in the bond exchange plan which comes on top of the EU’s new 109 billion euro bailout.

Moody’s cut Greece’s rating by three notches to Ca, just one notch above default, to reflect the expected loss implied by the proposed debt exchanges.

Greece now has the lowest rating of any country in the world covered by Moody’s, which, like Fitch last week, said it would review Greece’s rating after the debt swap is completed.

“Once the distressed exchange has been completed, Moody’s will reassess Greece’s rating to ensure that it reflects the risk associated with the country’s new credit profile, including the potential for further debt restructurings,” it said.

However, whereas Fitch pledged to quickly give Greece a higher, “low speculative grade” after its bonds had been exchanged, Moody’s said it could not forecast when the rating would change or how.

“It all depends how quickly the debt exchange takes place,” said Alastair Wilson, Moody’s Managing Director for EMEA Credit Policy. “Once we have greater visibility over that, we will reassess the credit profile quite quickly. Whether the rating will change, that’s a different question,” he told Reuters.

A senior EU official said on Saturday that the aim was to start a voluntary swap of privately-held Greek bonds in late August and conclude it in early September [ID:nLDE76M02I]

Greek bank shares and the broader stock market were unfazed by Moody’s action. Analysts said the downgrade and the default warning were priced in and less worrying following assurances provided by the EU deal.

“The EU Council last week effectively secured Greek banks’ continued access to ECB liquidity, even in the case that PSI (private sector involvement) triggers a selective default,” said Platon Monokroussos, an economist at EFG Eurobank.

The government has repeatedly criticized ratings firms for their downgrades and its spokesman threatened on Monday to end its subscriptions to these agencies as the new rescue package means Greece will not issue new bonds for years.

“All governments pay a subscription to these agencies. We, I think, do not need the reviews anymore. They have no practical value,” Elias Mosialos told Radio 9. “Perhaps the finance ministry should end its subscription.”

CONTAGION CONTAINED … FOR NOW

Moody’s said it would take into account the possibility of a second default while reassessing Greece’s rating.

“Our experience is that relatively small restructurings have often been followed by deeper defaults,” Wilson said, adding that he could not say if this would be the case for Greece.

The rescue package for Greece benefits other euro zone countries by containing near-term contagion risks but it was not necessarily positive in the longer run as it set a precedent for private sector involvement in rescue deals, Moody’s said.

“The support package sets a precedent for future restructurings should the finances of another euro area sovereign become as problematic as those of Greece. The impact of Thursday’s announcement for creditors of Ireland and Portugal is therefore likely to be credit-neutral,” it said.

The cost of insuring most peripheral euro zone government debt against default rose on Monday on market doubts that the fresh aid package for Greece agreed last week will protect bigger economies from contagion.

Standard & Poor’s and Fitch rate Greece CCC, broadly in line with Moody’s rating. S&P has not yet said how the EU summit deal will affect Greece’s rating.

Is Greece Crumbling or Rising?

The current economic crisis and consequent austerity measures in Greece seem to show a falling nation, but isn’t it instead the rise of Greece and the fall of its corrupt political system?

AP
June 16, 2011

Squeezed between worried creditors and an angry public, Greece’s beleaguered prime minister tried to tamp down an escalating revolt within his own Socialist party Thursday over new austerity measures.

Two prominent Socialist lawmakers resigned hours before Prime Minister George Papandreou was to reschuffle his Cabinet, a tactic he hoped would help get new taxes and spending cuts approved before Greece was cut off from international lending. The resignations don’t affect the government’s five-seat majority in parliament, but raise more doubts about Papandreau’s handling of Greece’s escalating financial crisis.

“The political system is rotting … The country is not being governed the way it should be,” said Socialist deputy Nikos Salagianis. “A reshuffle will not resolve the country’s problems.”

Trying to quiet the criticism, the Socialists announced emergency talks for Thursday afternoon, which will likely delay Papandreou’s announcement of his new cabinet.

Greece’s rapidly evolving political crisis comes a day after anti-austerity riots in central Athens and the collapse of negotiations to form a coalition government triggered a sell-off in global financial markets. Investors are deeply worried that a default in Greece could hurt banks elsewhere and set off a financial chain reaction that experts predict would be catastrophic.

Fears that a messy Greek default may be in the offing has sent the euro down nearly four cents over the past couple of days to below $1.41, triggered widespread selling in stock markets and pushed the Greek yield on its ten-year bonds up to a record over 18 percent.

The next week is crucial for Greece. Finance ministers of the 17-nation eurozone are expected to thrash out details of a second Greek bailout to be presented to EU leaders. It’s extremely unlikely that another rescue deal will be offered if the Greek Parliament fails to back the new austerity measures.

In Brussels, the European Union’s top economic official, Monetary Affairs Commissioner Olli Rehn, said it was “regrettable” that Wednesday’s coalition talks failed.

“A great deal of responsibility lies on the shoulders of the Greek authorities and all Greek political leaders. We expect the Greek Parliament to endorse the economic reform program as agreed by the end of June,” Rehn said. “The efforts needed to avoid a default — which would be a catastrophe for Greece — are the responsibility of all political forces.”

He said eurozone countries will likely agree on Sunday to pay Greece its next rescue loan, saving it from the immediate risk of default, but a decision on a new longer-term bailout will be delayed until July amid disagreement over the role of private investors.

The disbursement of the next installment of Greece’s rescue loans, worth euro12 billion ($17 billion), would prevent the country from defaulting on its massive debt next month, but its longer-term financial prospects remain uncertain.

Papandreou has faced withering public criticism over a new five-year austerity package that creditors have demanded in return for continued funding from the euro110 billion ($155 billion) international bailout. Market turmoil reflects waning confidence that Papandreou can win the austerity vote.

Papandreou, scrambling to pass the reforms, has also called a called vote of confidence in parliament, expected as early as Sunday or early next week.