Wednesday Jul 23, 2014 Search
Weather | Athens
29o C
22o 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)  
Unequal after death
Chinese investment
Forty-year milestones
The great enemy
Finance Minister, MPs to finalize overhaul of party funding laws
Finance Minister Gikas Hardouvelis is on Wednesday to meet coalition MPs in a bid to finalize an overhaul of regulations governing the funding of political parties, one of five prior actions...
EU envoy sees ´clear progress´ on immigration, asylum
European Home Affairs Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom on Tuesday expressed satisfaction at the “clear progress” made by Greece in the areas of migration and asylum while Development Minister ...
Inside News
Number of firms filing for bankruptcy in Greece drops
The number of companies that filed for bankruptcy in Greece last year declined by 5.5 percent from 2012, according to ICAP Group data released on Tuesday by the Federation of Business Inform...
TAIPED finally finds suitors for Afandou properties
Following the third sale announcement, state privatization fund TAIPED has managed to find five candidate buyers for the two plots up for grabs at Afandou on Rhodes. The fund announced on Tu...
Inside Business
TRACK & FIELD
Athens, the Marathon capital of the world for good
Paco Borao, the man who restored Athens as the Marathon capital of the world with the establishment at the Olympic Sports Center of the headquarters of the International Association of Marat...
TRACK & FIELD
Pole vault record on same day as three doping cases
Greek track and field had a mixed weekend, as on the same day as Katerina Stefanidi matched the national record in pole vault as well as the leading result in Europe so far this season, thre...
Inside Sports
SPONSORED LINK: FinanzNachrichten.de
SPONSORED LINK: BestPrice.gr
 RECENT NEWS
1. Number of firms filing for bankruptcy in Greece drops
2. TAIPED finally finds suitors for Afandou properties
3. Traders say last weekend proved Sunday opening is pointless
4. Fight for ADMIE privatization ends
5. Strategy focuses on debt sustainability
6. Minor gains at the end of up-and-down bourse session
more news
Today
This Week
1. Unequal after death
2. Greek sovereign debt at 174.1 percent of GDP in first quarter
3. Chinese investment
4. Greeks getting better at recycling, though still Europe's laggards
5. Shares in Greek renewable energy firm drop in trade debut
6. Piraeus prosecutor investigating use of funds for building renovation
Today
This Week
1. Ex-Credit Suisse banker taps lesson for Greek rebound
2. The cost of excellence
3. Greece seen in third bailout as bonds not enough, economists say
4. Summer storms cause problems in Thessaloniki, spread across the country
5. Climber dies in Mount Olympus fall
6. Greek banks able to tap investors after stress tests, HFSF Says
   Find us ...
  ... on
Twitter
     ... on Facebook   
About us  |  Subscriptions  |  Advertising  |  Contact us  |  Athens Plus  |  RSS  |   
Copyright © 2014, H KAΘHMEPINH All Rights Reserved.