BUSINESS

Debt restructuring will offer pardons to strategic defaulters

YIANNIS PAPADOYIANNIS

TAGS: Banking

The mission to restructure Greece’s overindebted enterprises runs the risk of turning into a fountain of catharsis, with strategic defaulters being pardoned, while everything that has not been done to clear the bad debt backlog over the last seven years must now be completed within the next few months.

It is no coincidence that the government is seeking to retain full control of the process for granting immunity to bank officials who arrange the settlement of corporate nonperforming loans, although the country’s creditors have been against Athens’s plan to politicize the issue from the outset.

Therefore we are heading toward a combined solution of the Bank of Greece with a judges’ committee, whereby a group of senior justice officials will seek the central bank’s opinion on prosecuting bank professionals who arrange or write off corporate debts.

Lenders must reduce their NPLs by 40 billion euros by the end of 2019 to avoid facing capital adequacy issues carrying the threat of a bail-in. There has to be a separation of sustainable enterprises from the unsustainable using objective criteria in order to avoid favors being granted to the state’s “friends.”

The clock is ticking and many people doubt the challenge can be met. Another recapitalization would lead to fresh mergers in the banking sector, with the risk of NPLs – practically the entire economy – being sold to foreigners for peanuts.

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