Saturday April 18, 2015 Search
Weather | Athens
14o C
09o C
News
Business
Comment
Life
Sports
Community
Survival Guide
Greek Edition
Greece needs growth, not austerity

By Costas Meghir, Dimitri Vayanos & Nikos Vettas

Greece’s economy and society are imploding.

Gross domestic product has declined more than 20 percent since 2008. The unemployment rate has tripled, and now stands at 25 percent, with joblessness among youth at twice that level. Crime is on the rise, as are racist incidents, and ideologies of the extreme right and left are gaining significant support.

Worse, current policies aren’t stemming the economic decline. The new three-party government elected in June has focused its energies on negotiating a new package of austerity measures to meet the conditions set by the so-called troika (the European Central Bank, the European Commission and the International Monetary Fund) for the disbursement of the next tranche of the bailout loan.

The reforms that are the only pathways to growth, such as building a well-functioning public administration and liberalizing markets, are resisted by Greek politicians and vested interests. They are also greatly underemphasized by the troika’s push for austerity.

Unless there is a change of course, Greece is headed for disaster: further declines in GDP, a possible chaotic default on its debt, extremist political parties in power, and isolation from Europe. The European Union also stands to lose because a Greek meltdown would reverse the decades-long process of integration and undermine the credibility of the single currency. And Greece’s creditors won’t get any of their money back.

To avoid such an outcome, which could occur soon, Greece’s European partners should devise a long-term strategy with two mutually reinforcing objectives: a drastic reduction of Greece’s debt and a thorough overhaul of the country’s dysfunctional economy.

Greece’s debt is projected to rise to 189 percent of GDP next year, from 129 percent in 2009. This is despite the restructuring of privately held debt and severe austerity measures that have almost wiped out the government’s primary deficit.

Most of the increase in the debt-to-GDP ratio can be attributed to the large decline in GDP. Further austerity measures, designed to generate the large primary surplus necessary to begin reducing the debt, will cause GDP to fall further, making the debt-to-GDP ratio even larger. This will make it impossible for Greece to ever repay its debt in full. Its European partners should recognize this state of affairs and write off a significant fraction of the debt. This would allow Greece to grow and repay the rest.

Writing off Greece’s debt can be done in a way that preserves, and even promotes, incentives for reform. A portion of the officially held debt -- 50 percent or more -- should be set aside to be written off gradually over the next five years or so, on the condition that Greece completes a set of institutional and market changes. The steps include making the public administration more efficient, speeding judicial proceedings, reducing corruption and liberalizing markets.

Achievement of these milestones could be monitored using existing indexes designed by institutions such as the World Bank and the IMF. Such a system would not only promote reform, but would put Greece’s debt, which cannot be repaid in full in any case, to good use.

More generally, the troika should emphasize structural changes rather than the rapid accumulation of a primary surplus. The initial emphasis on reducing the deficit was appropriate given the unsustainably large budget shortfall.

However, continued austerity will be counterproductive because it undermines reform. For example, deep salary cuts in the public administration are causing talented personnel to leave, thus impairing an already weak system and worsening the core problem of low public-sector productivity. The agencies in charge of essential tasks such as tackling tax evasion, supervising financial markets and prosecuting white-collar criminals, are often short of funds, equipment and the ability to attract talent. The troika should ensure that those funding needs are met, regardless of the effect on the deficit.

And it is hard to imagine how the Greek politicians and vested interests who have successfully resisted reform could continue to block institutional changes that are the condition for writing off a large part of the debt and averting disaster.

An emphasis on transformation and debt reduction would be welcomed by the Greek population, whose support is necessary for these efforts to succeed. Giving voters the chance to back debt relief in exchange for reforms will dim the appeal of the extremist parties.

The only way forward is to overhaul the Greek economy. For the population, that means recognizing that resisting structural reforms would be suicidal. For its part, the troika should acknowledge that further budget cuts would be catastrophic, and could only lead to a continuing deterioration of the economy and to the severing of Greece’s links with Europe.

[Bloomberg]

ekathimerini.com , Wednesday November 21, 2012 (22:13)  
Back to the beginning
Protecting a key asset
The Armenian genocide and Hagia Sophia
Crime against education
Kotzias to begin US visit with Kerry meeting in Washington
Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias is due to begin a five-day visit to the US on Monday. He will begin his trip by meeting Secretary of State John Kerry in Washington, where he will also hold ta...
Turkey asks for investigation into Greek mosque attacks
The Turkish Foreign Ministry has asked Greece to investigate the vandalism of two mosques in Komotini following incidents on Friday. “Turkey requests Greek authorities to clarify as soon as ...
Inside News
US Treasury secretary urges Greece to reach debt deal
Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew (photo) is urging Greece to reach a deal with its creditors, warning that a default would "create immediate hardship for Greece" and damage the world economy. Gr...
Greece poised to sign gas deal with Russia, says German weekly
Greece is poised to sign a gas deal with Russia as early as Tuesday which could bring 3-5 billion euros into depleted government coffers, German magazine Der Spiegel reported, citing a senio...
Inside Business
BASKETBALL
Triumph for Olympiakos at Barcelona
Olympiakos produced its best away performance so far this season to defeat host Barcelona 76-63 on Friday and snatch the home advantage in the Euroleague play-offs. The Reds have now tied th...
BASKETBALL
Another heavy loss for improved Panathinaikos in Moscow
Panathinaikos raised its performance since Tuesday but still suffered a 20-point loss at CSKA Moscow on Thursday to find itself trailing 2-0 after Game 2 of the Euroleague play-offs. Having ...
Inside Sports
SPONSORED LINK: FinanzNachrichten.de
SPONSORED LINK: BestPrice.gr
 RECENT NEWS
1. US Treasury secretary urges Greece to reach debt deal
2. Greece poised to sign gas deal with Russia, says German weekly
3. Russia gas deal would not solve Greece’s problems, says Schaeuble
4. Spanish official slams Greece, says time ´running out´
5. Kotzias to begin US visit with Kerry meeting in Washington
6. Turkey asks for investigation into Greek mosque attacks
more news
Today
This Week
1. Back to the beginning
2. Golden Dawn on trial amid conflict over court venue
3. Terrorism suspects caught following German request
4. Kotzias to begin US visit with Kerry meeting in Washington
5. Turkey asks for investigation into Greek mosque attacks
6. Protecting a key asset
Today
This Week
1. Quarantine for Greek bank subsidiaries in neighboring countries
2. Greece and lenders head back to technical talks
3. Contraband is big business in Greece
4. FYROM push expected at EU meeting
5. Islands of eastern Aegean struggle as migrant influx triples
6. Greek finance ministry hits back at German newspaper report
   Find us ...
  ... on
Twitter
     ... on Facebook   
About us  |  Subscriptions  |  Advertising  |  Contact us  |  Athens Plus  |  RSS  |   
Copyright © 2015, H KAΘHMEPINH All Rights Reserved.