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Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Deja Vu

The EU looks set to celebrate the one year anniversary of the Greek bailout by... giving it another bailout.

The fact that a second bailout for Greece is even being considered almost defies belief. Greece’s credit rating got downgraded again yesterday by S&P, solidifying its position as junk and highlighting the fact that a debt restructuring is by almost all accounts, except the EU powers that be, unavoidable. On top of this, there is also talk of further relaxing the original rescue conditions and reducing the interest rate. At some point one has to ask, to what end?

Not only has the EU failed to grasp the public opinion spreading across Europe (no more bailouts), they’ve also completely lost sight of the end game – finding a solution to the eurozone crisis.

Both the Greek and Irish bailouts failed to achieve anything, except maybe buying time as BBC’s Stephanie Flanders suggests (that’s some expensive time by the way). Both countries have seen their cost of borrowing skyrocket and continue to have massive debt and deficit levels. Furthermore, Greece has ultimately failed to meet the conditions laid down in the first bailout agreement, rewarding it with another bailout as well as relaxing those conditions seems to supercharge the moral hazard created by the original bailout. Combine this with the ongoing resistance to imposing losses on bondholders and it becomes clear just what perverse incentives these actions could be creating.

Relaxing the bailout conditions doesn’t really help anyone, least of all Greece, because the deficit/debt cutting and labour market reforms are vitally important for the future of the Greek economy. Some relief might sound good right now but ultimately these reforms will need to be made if Greece is ever to have a chance of becoming competitive again.

It’s becoming increasingly clear that eurozone leaders are just trying to put off dealing with the situation until 2013, when the new permanent bailout fund (ESM) comes into force, for both political (its after some important core eurozone elections) and economic (Germany thinks its banks will be in better shape then) reasons. Reaching that date seems to be the new end above all else, no matter the cost (restructuring will only get more costly as debt continues to increase) or the futility of their actions.

Unfortunately, we feel like we've made all these arguments before, but at least we feel less alone this time... ( for example see here, here and here but there are countless others)


Rollo said...

The bailouts are not there to save Greece. They are there to save mainly German and French banks. Far better, they think, that every European citizen should pay for the bailouts, rather than the banks taking a haircut. The Commission is of course right behind these institutions; as it redoubles their stranglehold on what were nation states.

Robert Snare said...

The safest place to live is within your income.
Until this simple common sense rule is reimposed, the euro will continue to implode.
You do not have to be a brain surgeon to recognise this simple truth and age old adage.