Iceland and Greece were both seriously affected by the Global Crisis, yet their experiences with the implemented IMF programmes have been quite different. In Iceland the programme has been a success, whereas the one in Greece has been a failure. This column explains why this happened. First, Iceland’s external debt was de jure private, while Greece’s external debt was sovereign debt. Second, Iceland has its own currency, making it easy to create a current account surplus through a lower exchange rate. Finally, the government of Iceland took full ownership of the IMF programme, which was not the case in Greece.
Margarita Katsimi, Gylfi Zoega, 19 November 2015
Paul De Grauwe, 07 September 2015
Economists were early critics of the design of the Eurozone, though many of their warnings went unheeded. This column discusses some fundamental design flaws, and how they have contributed to recent crises. National booms and busts lead to large external imbalances, and without individual lenders of last resort – national central banks – these cycles lead some members to experience liquidity crises that degenerated into solvency crises. One credible solution to these design failures is the formation of a political union, however member states are unlikely to find this appealing.
Andrea Consiglio, Stavros A. Zenios, 12 August 2015
Some experts view Greek debt as sustainable, while others claim it is not sustainable. This column argues that the distinction between tactical and strategic debt sustainability can explain this difference of opinions. Moreover, strategic debt sustainability analysis should account for tail risk. This approach shows that Greek debt is highly unsustainable, but sustainability can be restored with a nominal haircut of 50%, interest rate concessions of 70%, or a rescheduling of debt to a weighted average maturity of 20 years. Greece and its creditors should ‘bet on the future’ and embrace debt relief.
Charles Wyplosz, 20 July 2015
There is a high likelihood that Grexit will be back on the table. This column argues that Greece can strengthen its negotiating position if it is prepared for exit. Grexit remains a disastrous choice, but it has become the default option for Greece and its creditors. However, preparing for Grexit does not mean leaving the Eurozone. A credible threat point may deliver a better outcome. The purpose of the exercise should be to make Grexit a plausible solution, then not to do it.
Christos Koulovatianos, John Tsoukalas, 20 July 2015
As numerous Greek MEPs opposed the Eurozone summit deal, implementation will require a broad coalition of political parties. This column argues that corruption in Greek politics will prevent the formation of such a coalition. The heavy debt service leads parties to invent extreme ways of responding to super-austerity and to strongly oppose direct reforms that challenge existing clientelism. The way out is to sign a new agreement that combines debt restructuring and radical transparency reforms, including naming-and-shaming practices, to block clientelism in the medium and long run.
Fabio Ghironi, 18 July 2015
Success of the German-inspired solution for the latest Greek crisis is far from assured. If it fails, the Eurozone may be changed forever. This column argues that the failure would lead to an outcome that has been favoured for decades by Germany’s Finance Minister, Wolfgang Schäuble. Perhaps the package the Eurozone agreed is just a backdoor way of getting to the ‘variable geometry’ and monetary unification for the core that the Maastricht criteria had failed to achieve.
Paul De Grauwe, Yuemei Ji, 16 July 2015
When the ECB buys a Eurozone member’s bonds, the government pays interest to the ECB but the ECB rebates it to the government. If Greece repays its ECB-held bonds, it loses this ‘free borrowing’. This column argues that repayment is like ‘reverse QE’. To maintain its QE targets, more bonds from other EZ members must be bought – thus shifting the free borrowing from Greece to other EZ members. To avoid this perverse outcome, the ECB could extend the maturity of the Greek bonds.
Jeffrey N. Gordon, Georg Ringe, 17 July 2015
The Greek Crisis is a crisis rather than a problem due to the vulnerability of Greek banks. While the banks have deep problems, this column argues that these would have been mitigated if a fully operational banking union were in place. A full banking union requires joint banking supervision, joint bank resolution, and joint deposit insurance. The EZ only has the first so far. Completing the banking union must be part of any long-term solution.
Thorsten Beck, 15 July 2015
Monday’s deal was a political compromise consistent with the political constraints of Greece and its creditors. It is doubtful, however, that it will provide a long-term solution to Greece’s economic crisis. At a minimum, the momentum should be used to eliminate the option of Grexit once and for all. The bank-sovereign ties should be cut to turn Greek banks from a source of crises into a growth-supporting sector.
Charles Wyplosz, 14 July 2015
The new bailout deal for Greece was not easy. This column argues that it was also a failure. It will not be enough to recapitalise banks, it asks for structural reform that exceeds Greek capacities, and it raises the Greek debt-to-GDP ratio to unsustainable levels. In a few months or quarters, the programme will fail and the Grexit question will flare up again.
Julian Schumacher, Beatrice Weder di Mauro, 12 July 2015
The sustainability of Greek debt is central to the negotiations. To date the sustainability calculations have been based on the IMF’s standard models for calculating sustainability for countries with market access. This column argues that these are not appropriate for Greece – a middle-income country with highly concessionary financing. The ESM should develop a new, appropriate analytic tool to reflect Greece’s special situation.
Olivier Blanchard, 10 July 2015
The Greek crisis is in a critical phase. This column, by the IMF’s Chief Economist, reflects on the various critiques of the handling to date of Greece’s problems.
Francesco Caselli, Camille Landais, Christopher Pissarides, Silvana Tenreyro, Wouter den Haan, 09 July 2015
Greek exit from the Eurozone has uncertain and potentially dangerous implications for all involved. This column, signed by 25 LSE economists, urges the Greek government and its creditors to act more responsibly. The first priority is to get Greece on a path of sustainable growth by relaxing austerity in the near term and linking debt restructuring to essential structural improvements.
Paul De Grauwe, 03 July 2015
Greece’s debt is 180% of GDP, which seems to make it insolvent without large primary surpluses. This column argues that since restructuring lowered the interest burden to just 2% of GDP, Greece is solvent – or would be with nominal GDP growth of just 2%. The ECB’s misdiagnosis has caused an unnecessary banking crisis. The solution is to accept that Greek debt is sustainable, so the austerity programme can be relaxed and liquidity support provided to the Greek banking sector.
Daniel Gros, 03 July 2015
Two financial crises at the ‘sub federal’ are currently taking place – one in the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, and the second one in Greece. This column highlights some surprising similarities between them, as well as the main differences. The Eurozone is a voluntary union of states which remain sovereign. But if Greece were part of the US, it could not hold a referendum, and its budget would be drawn up by a federal bankruptcy court. The key political difference is not austerity, but the fact that Greece’s debt is mainly to official creditors, who are ideal targets for political pressure.
Barry Eichengreen, 01 July 2015
Barry Eichengreen’s VoxEU column arguing that the euro was irreversible has been viewed over 230,000 times. Now it appears to be wrong. In this column, originally posted on the website ‘The Conversation’, he looks to see where his predictions went wrong. Basically the economic analysis – which focused on bank runs – was right. He went wrong in overestimating the political competence of Greece and its creditors.
Domingo Cavallo, 30 June 2015
Grexit and the reintroduction of the drachma would have severe consequences for the Greek people. This column argues, based on Argentina's experience, that this would produce a sharp devaluation of the drachma, inflation, and a severe reduction in real wages and pensions. The effects would be far worse than the reductions that could have occurred as a consequence of the policies proposed by the Troika. By resuming negotiations, continuing with measures to achieve fiscal consolidation and carrying out adequate structural reforms, Greece could reverse the current situation in a sustainable way. It has the great advantage that the ECB, most European governments and the IMF are willing to resume negotiations.
Charles Wyplosz, 29 June 2015
This weekend’s dramatic events saw the ECB capping emergency assistance to Greece. This column argues that the ECB’s decision is the last of a long string of ECB mistakes in this crisis. Beyond triggering Greece’s Eurozone exit – thus revoking the euro’s irrevocability – it has shattered Eurozone governance and brought the politicisation of the ECB to new heights. Bound to follow are chaos in Greece and agitation of financial markets – both with unknown consequences.
Thorsten Beck, 28 June 2015
The breakdown of negotiations between Greece and the Troika comes as a shock. It is not, however, the end of the game. This column argues that the rupture can serve as a starting point for a new relationship between Greece and its creditors – an approach that does not provide fresh cash to the Greek government and does not impose specific policy reforms from outside.
Richard Baldwin, 21 June 2015
The Greek crisis has rumbled along since 2009. Vox columnists have been analysing the situation with uncanny foresight right from the beginning. This column reviews a few of the contributions from 2009 and 2010 that predicted many of today’s challenges using nothing more than simple economic logic and a firm grasp of the facts.