The continuing saga of economic decline in western democracies… Is Greece the “Canary in the Coal Mine” for how these events unfold?
It’s now 2017 and there is still no clear path to stability for Greece… and no one appears to have an answer. The economists are now saying that Greece cannot ‘grow’ out of their economic malaise:
The new report was prepared by IMF staff ahead of a February 6 board meeting to discuss the fund’s participation in an EU-led €86bn bailout of Greece and signals the continuing hard line the IMF is taking on debt relief for Athens. It offers a bleaker view of Greece’s economic dilemmas than an analysis prepared last year, warning that the debt load is “highly unsustainable” and would not improve even if it implemented further reforms recommended by the fund. . . .
“Even with these ambitious polices in place, Greece cannot grow out of its debt problem,” IMF staff warned in the report, seen by the Financial Times and drafted as part of the fund’s annual review of member economies. “Greece requires substantial debt relief from its European partners to restore debt sustainability.”
This is a good assessment of the real challenge:
The deeper problem is that Greece does not produce like a developed country, but its citizens expect the level of services and pensions normally associated with a developed country. That’s why there is so much hostility to Greece in the middle-income countries of Eastern Europe, where benefit levels are lower.
June 25, 2016
From the Wall Street Journal, there is no end in sight for the economic decline in Greece…
Mr. Tsipras’s statist ideology is as hostile as ever to the supply-side reforms Greece needs, and both the IMF and other creditors seem to be giving up hope that any other Greek politician could enact such reforms. Which means Greece’s crisis will drag on no matter what happens next with Greece’s debts.
May 8, 2016
The drama continues as the government of Greece passes additional austerity measures:
Greece’s parliament has passed a package of tax and pension reforms, ahead of a crucial meeting of Eurozone finance ministers… Before the vote, protesters in Athens threw petrol bombs at police, who responded with tear gas. Trade unions say the country cannot bear another round of austerity… Three days of a general strike paralysed public transport and slowed the public sector and the media. Speaking before the vote, the leader of the Greek Communist Party, Dimitris Koutsoubas, said the Greek people would “not tolerate nor accept” the measures and would “show their true power” in the event of a yes vote.
April 16, 2016
This article in the Daily Mail should give you an idea of the recent economic progress (or lack thereof) in Greece:
The Greek government fears it could be subjected to terror attacks if a taxpayer-funded mosque is not constructed in Athens. Officials claim it would allow Muslims to practise their religion under the auspices of a centrally-appointed imam that would ensure it does not stray into extremism.
Hmmm… the country is broke, yet it’s using ‘taxpayer’ (in Greece, the word taxpayer should always appear in scary quotes) money to payoff potential terrorists.
January 25, 2016
From the analysts at investors.com, the latest status and outlook:
In protracted and bitter negotiations last summer, the country promised to raise the retirement age, cut pensions, liberalize the energy market, open up closed professions, raise taxes and sell government assets.
There have been encouraging signs. In December, the Greek Parliament narrowly passed overhauls needed to get the next $1.1 billion segment of the bailout negotiated over the summer with the IMF, the European Central Bank and European Commission, known as the troika.
Standard & Poor’s raised its long-term sovereign debt rating to B- from CCC+ with stable outlook, citing the country’s compliance with its economic program.
But the country is a long way from recovery. Third-quarter unemployment was 24% and the economy contracted 0.1% from a year earlier.
Analysts with Deutsche Bank said earlier this month that they expect Greece to slip into deep recession later this year.
September 21, 2015
The malaise continues… a good analysis from Strategy Page:
We know how Greece got here. Greek productivity could not pay for the lifestyle its citizens desired. The productivity of other Euro-zone nations financed Greek good times and kept Greek politicians in power.
Greece lied to obtain the largesse. When the Euro-zone officially formed in 2001, Greece claimed it had a GDP deficit of 1.5 percent. In 2012, former Greek budget minister Peter Doukas said the real 2001 figure was 8.3 percent. Over the years, Greek governments violated fiscal agreements, borrowed money they could not repay and managed to hide the lies. European Union monitoring systems failed to detect the buildup in Greek debt.
The Greek people, who supported these lying governments, enjoyed “other people’s money.” Now German, French and even Italian workers say no more. Italians complain that Greek government worker pensions are far more lavish than theirs. No la dolce vita on our euros.
As for selective law enforcement: Systemic crookedness stymies economic growth. Greeks know it. A June 2010 poll found that 78 percent of the Greek people “accept the view that many or all in government are corrupt.” That same year, a Greek finance ministry investigation uncovered extensive tax evasion, corruption and bribery in its tax collection offices. Greek tax evaders cost the country an estimated $27 billion to $30 billion a year.
Here’s the big story. In Greece, we witness another hard example of an old lesson. Economic reality shakes and eventually shatters political fantasy. Fantasy may fade, but denial tends to die hard. All too often, it dies violently.
June 28, 2015
The saga continues… The Greeks elected a Communist leader that promised economic miracles for the citizenry (sound familiar?); and everyone has discovered the harsh reality of running out of other people’s money. It’s now widely reported that the Greek government is shuttering the banks for a week:
Greek leaders planned to shutter their banks on Monday amid last-ditch discussions about their nation’s economic future, as panicked citizens tried to pull their money from their accounts while they still were able.
I still don’t know enough about macroeconomics to predict the eventual end game… I suppose the other EU countries will be coming to Athens to repossess the Parthenon.
January 6, 2015
Well, three years later and we have not yet closed the loop on the outcome… Today’s BusinessWeek discusses Greece considering its options:
The current Greek situation is particularly troubling since by as early as mid-year it could constitute Europe’s Lehman Brothers moment. Whatever the outcome of the Jan. 25 parliamentary election, it is difficult to see how Greece can avoid a major policy collision with its European partners. Greece is showing every sign of austerity and economic reform fatigue as its economy remains mired in the deepest of depressions.
February 3, 2014
Yes, the story continues more than two years later, but the plot and results remain the same… As noted at ZeroHedge, Europe pretends to bail out Greece… and Greece pretends to reform and comply with austerity reforms when it merely continues to spend as before until the money runs out…
At this point, I would be willing to say that Victor Davis Hanson has been the best prognosticator (see earlier posts below)
May 9, 2013
The Greek government began its first mass-firing of public-sector workers in more than 100 years this week, part of an effort to lay off 180,000 by 2015 under Europe-imposed austerity.
via Greece starts firing civil servants for first time in a century.
August 20, 2012
More bad news about the Greece economy… They have debt coming due and the country needs to issue more bonds. The Greek GDP shrank by more than 6% over the last 12 months.
I still have that lingering question: How does Greece break out of this continuous decline?
July 24, 2012
The Prime Minister of Greece declares that his country is in a depression (any surprises here?):
Greek GDP is expected by the end of this year to have shrunk by about a fifth in five consecutive years of recession since 2008…
May 11, 2012
You may have missed the Greek elections, but the results are foretelling — the citizens cast quite a few ballots for the Communist and the Nazi parties… the real takeaway that can be generalized for many western countries is that nobody wants to hear about austerity measures. Given a choice between a leader who says “you’ll have to tighten your belt and go to work” versus a prospective leader who proclaims “the government should continue to support your lifestyle”, well, the answer is pretty obvious.
The saga about bankrupt western countries continues to unfold…
May 2, 2012
It’s not getting any better in Athens…
April 5, 2012
It appears that the financial markets are not convinced that Greece has overcome its problems. The Greek 10 year bonds are now hovering around a 20% yield rate (in contrast, US 10 year bonds are approximately 2%).
February 13, 2012
A prognostication from Victor Davis Hanson:
There are only three scenarios likely for Greece: (1) In exchange for debt relief, a liberated Greece changes its ways, opens up its economy, redefines labor and capital markets and becomes a sort of Spain (unlikely). (2) It defaults and its drachma-based country reverts to what one remembered in the old days and what one would expect from a top-heavy, unproductive socialist state (somewhat likely). Or (3) it gets some half-relief, but soon reneges on its promised reforms and austerity, and thus like Greek cities in the 2nd Century AD, life goes on as weeds grow among the impressive, but crumbling infrastructure of the past (very likely).
February 5, 2012
The saga continues… Is the situation in Greece a microcosm of the western democracies and economic decline? A recent issue of the Washington Times discusses how the Greek bailout cycle continues unabated:
The latest examination by international debt inspectors found Greece in such dire straits that it requires another $20 billion cash infusion. This would be on top of the $171 billion promised in October, which was on top of the $145 billion Greece received in 2010…
Greece is not going to escape this repeating cycle of near-collapse and bailout without doing something that sparks sustained economic growth and private-sector job creation. It’s well past time to try something new. The last two years of bailouts and broken promises to cut back on spending have resulted in a shrinking economy and what seem to be daily news of rioting on the streets of Athens. That’s not exactly the best advertisement for Greece’s most significant industry: tourism.
January 31, 2012
The German news organization, Spiegel, is sharing its thoughts on the situation in Greece… They exclaim that European politicians are not facing reality:
Once again, Europe is arguing over a bailout for Greece, and it looks as though the result will be no different that it has been in the past… Europe’s politicians continue to battle reality. Everyone knows that Greece cannot repay its massive pile of debts, now at more than €350 billion ($459 billion). But instead of effectively reducing the financial burden, European politicians intend to approve new loans for the government in Athens and go on fighting debt with new debt.
January 29, 2012
The latest discussion is about Greece changing from using the Euro as its currency:
Germany and the rest of the eurozone can’t actually kick a country out of the euro for fear of investor panic and speculation against Portugal, Italy, Ireland, and Spain. But if Greece were to leave on its own…
January 25, 2012
The situation in Greece has many economists around the world concerned:
The rest of the world needs to sit up and take notice of what is going on in Greece right now. This is what can happen when you allow government debt to spiral out of control. Once it becomes clear that you can’t pay your debts, a financial collapse can happen very suddenly and you start losing your sovereignty to those that you must turn to for financial help.
January 15, 2012
I’ve been watching the situation in Greece with great interest. It possesses all of the leading indicators of great decline associated with a western culture that has embraced Socialism. These indicators include a very low reproduction rate among the indigenous population; huge amounts of entitlements showered among the citizens; and a government expenditure rate well out of line with the country’s gross domestic product.
When a country gets to this point what happens? Do they declare bankruptcy and the creditor nations repossess the assets? Do they hyper-inflate their way out of debt by using their own currency?
Over at the Calculated Risk blog, they talk about the fact that everyone knows that the Greeks are not willing to adopt austerity measures.
At this point, it all sounds like a huge game of “kick the can” as a means to delay the inevitable… of course, I still don’t have a clear picture of the eventual outcome.