Buffett says Greek exit from euro ‘may not be a bad thing’

Billionaire investor Warren Buffett said the euro region could withstand Greece’s departure from the currency union.

“If it turns out the Greeks leave, that may not be a bad thing for the euro,” Buffett told CNBC in an interview Tuesday. “If everybody learns that the rules mean something and if they come to general agreement about fiscal policy among members, or something of the sort, that they mean business, that could be a good thing.”

Europe’s most-indebted state is locked in negotiations with euro-area countries and the International Monetary Fund over the terms of its 240 billion-euro ($260 billion) rescue. The standoff, which has left Greece dependent upon European Central Bank loans, risks leading to a default within weeks and its potential exit from the euro area.

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras sought to rally a consensus in Parliament late Monday in Athens for an effort to secure bailout funds after proposals to bolster the nation’s finances failed to satisfy his European creditors. The euro extended its biggest quarterly slide versus the dollar since its inception amid the wrangling.

“I’ve thought that the euro had structural problems right from the moment that it was put it in, which does not mean it will necessarily fail,” Buffett said on CNBC. “You can adapt to those structural problems, but maybe some countries won’t adapt and they won’t be in. It’s not ordained that the euro has to have exactly the members that it has today.”

Munger’s view

Charles Munger, vice chairman at Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc., criticized Greek citizens last week for trying to vote their way to prosperity. The country’s politics were shaken up in January when Tsipras’s Syriza party won election on a pledge to ease austerity and negotiate a writedown of some of the country’s debt.

Buffett told CNBC that, over time, the countries in the euro area would need to better coordinate their labor laws, fiscal deficits and general management of their economies.

“It can’t continue with people going in dramatically different directions,” Buffett said. “The Germans are not going to fund the Greeks forever.” [Bloomberg]

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