Greek Economy Getting into a Deeper Hole

By GEORGE GEORGIOPOULOS | REUTERS | APRIL 24, 2012

Greek GDP to slump 5 pct in 2012. Current account gap to shrink to 7.5 pct of GDP. Inflation seen at 1.2 pct in 2012. Strict adherence to reforms urged.

Greece’s economy will contract a deeper than expected 5 percent this year, the country’s central bank chief said on Tuesday, piling more pressure on to a citizenry already battered by crippling austerity and record joblessness.

The projection topped a previous forecast the central bank made in March, when it projected the 215 billion euro economy would contract 4.5 percent after a 6.9 percent slump in 2011.

Twice bailed-out Greece is in its fifth consecutive year of recession.

Speaking to shareholders at the central bank’s annual assembly, George Provopoulos, also a European Central Bank Governing Council member, urged strict adherence to reform and fiscal adjustment commitments Greece has agreed with its euro zone partners, saying they were needed to return the economy to sustainable growth.

Athens is under pressure to apply more fiscal austerity to shore up its finances as part of a new rescue package agreed this year with its euro zone partners and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to avert a chaotic default.

Its continued funding under the 130 billion euro package will hinge on meeting targets.

Provopoulos warned that Greece’s euro zone membership was at stake if it failed to follow through on its pledges, especially after national elections next month.

“If following the election doubts emerge about the new government and society’s will to implement the programme, the current favourable prospects will reverse,” he said.

Greece is set to pick a new government on May 6, with the two main parties in the current coalition seen barely securing a majority in parliament, according to the latest opinion polls.

Whoever wins will have to agree additional spending cuts of 5.5 percent of GDP, or worth about 11 billion euros for 2013-2014, and gather about another 3 billion from better tax collection to keep getting aid, the IMF has said.

IMPROVING COMPETITIVENESS

The central banker projected Greece’s current account gap, a key indicator reflecting eroded economic competitiveness, would shrink to 7.5 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) this year from 9.8 percent in 2011. In March the central bank forecast the gap would drop to 7 percent of GDP this year.

“The expected drop in unit labour costs in 2012-13, coupled with the projected price trends will lead to a marked improvement in competitiveness, contributing to a rise in exports and import substitution,” he said.

Consumer inflation is seen slowing to 1.2 percent this year and may fall below 0.5 percent in 2013. Weak domestic demand combined with downward wage pressures have shrunk the country’s inflation differential with other euro zone states.

The central bank estimates that by the end of this year the economy will have regained up to three quarters of competitiveness lost during 2001-09. Greece joined the euro in 2001 and enjoyed a consumption boom on lower borrowing costs.

Provopoulos said the fiscal shortfall had come down markedly but remained high. Last year Greece shrank its budget gap by 1.2 percentage points to 9.1 percent of GDP and aims for a 6.7 percent deficit this year.

Austerity measures including income and property tax increases, a rise in value-added tax rates and cuts in wages and pensions, helped reduce the gap from 15.6 percent of GDP in 2009, when its debt crisis erupted.

“The sought attainment of primary surpluses from 2013 is now achievable,” the central banker said.

Provopoulos also said private sector bank deposits had declined by more than 70 billion euros since the end of 2009, a sum equivalent to about one third of the country’s GDP, in a blow to the banking sector’s lending capacity.

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.