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
Daniel A. Dias, Mark L. J. Wright, 13 November 2015
Measured as a percentage of its GDP, Greece’s debt is higher than that of Portugal and Ireland. This column discusses a range of new techniques for measuring the debts of Greece, Ireland, and Portugal. It argues that plausible alternative measures of indebtedness suggest that Greece is anywhere from as much as 50% more indebted than Portugal and Ireland to as little as half as indebted. The most reasonable measures imply that Greece is far less indebted than is commonly reported.
Jasper Lukkezen, 24 September 2015
After 2018, Greece should have market access. This column argues that without further debt relief, this is unlikely to happen. Under reasonable assumptions, its debt ratio will likely not decline, and the financing burden will increase again. Private investors will take these risks into account and will ask for a risk premium that Greece cannot afford in the long run.
Agnès Benassy-Quéré, 07 September 2015
The problems in the Eurozone are not a side effect of the Global Crisis but rather date back to the Maastricht treaty. This chapter proposes a few possible remedies. First, it is necessary to make debt restructuring possible within the Eurozone. In particular, the risk loop between sovereigns and banks needs to be stopped through more diversified balance sheets. The second suggestion involves more shared sovereignty, not only for debtor countries, but also for creditors. At a minimum, the Eurozone needs a fiscal backstop for its banking union.
Thomas Philippon, 31 August 2015
The Eurozone crisis continues to take centre stage. This column discusses how deep the EZ crisis is, how long it will last, and what should be the policy priorities. A number of findings emerge. First, the difference in labour market performance between the US and the Eurozone is one of degree but not of kind. Second, the economic consequences of the sovereign debt crisis will be mostly gone by 2018, but the political crisis will continue. Third, enforcing fiscal rules via political arm twisting is a recipe for disaster. Market discipline must instead be brought back, but without financial fragmentation. Limited and conditional Eurobonds are the best way to do so.
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.
Ashoka Mody, 18 June 2015
The Greek crisis continues to take centre stage in policy debates. This column provides insight on the topic using evidence from three recent IMF studies. A suggested programme for Greece includes debt relief (debt equal to 50% of GDP and payable over 40 years), scaling down the banking system, and setting a flat 0.5% of GDP primary surplus over the next three years.
Andreas Müller, Kjetil Storesletten, Fabrizio Zilibotti, 27 May 2015
In the policy circles, there are confronting positions regarding Greece’s assistance programme and the structural reforms it should implement. This column argues that the best response is pragmatism and sequential compromise. Efficiency requires an assistance programme providing the country with debt relief with an intervention of an institution such as the IMF. Thus, misconceived economic principles could bring large welfare losses for Greece and renewed financial instability in the Eurozone.
Biagio Bossone, Marco Cattaneo, 26 May 2015
Introducing a currency in parallel to the euro could help Greece repay its external debt and resume economic activity. This second column in a two-part series evaluates the different options and their effects on aggregate demand and fiscal sustainability. The authors propose a tax credit certificates programme, which they argue could generate new spending capacity and avoid the adoption of new austerity measures.
Biagio Bossone, Marco Cattaneo, 25 May 2015
To prevent it from defaulting on its debt, the Greek government might need to introduce a new domestic currency, in parallel to the euro. This column, the first in a two-part series, compares the current proposals for a parallel currency and discusses how such a policy instrument could promote economic recovery.
Miranda Xafa, 25 June 2014
The 2012 Greek debt restructuring was the largest one in the history of sovereign defaults. This column discusses the lessons from this historically unprecedented episode. Delaying the restructuring implied that externally held debt remained higher than it would have been otherwise. Supportive crisis management is necessary for smooth restructuring to take place in a currency union.
Peter Allen, Barry Eichengreen, Gary Evans, 28 February 2014
Greece needs debt reduction. This column argues that instead of offering another lengthening of maturities and reduction in interest rates, Eurozone leaders should seize the occasion and implement debt-for-equity swaps that would encourage foreign investment, speed privatisation and jumpstart the Greek economy.
Vasiliki Fouka, Hans-Joachim Voth, 23 October 2013
The EZ crisis increased north-south conflicts between bailout providers and recipients – especially between Germany and Greece. This column shows evidence that political conflict directly translated into losses of market share for German car producers in Greece – especially in areas where German armed forces committed massacres during World War II. Six decades later, memories of conflict are never far from the surface in Europe.
Charles Wyplosz, 23 September 2013
Greece is in dire straits; it will need more debt relief. This column argues that Greece is suffering because northern EZ countries kicked the can down the road by forcing crisis countries to borrow rather than restructure their debts early on. It is time for the ‘generous’ lenders to face the consequences of their short-sightedness. The bad news that Chancellor Merkel ought to break now to her people is that official debt restructuring is inevitable.
Olivier Blanchard, 23 March 2012
The Greek package has cheered up markets. In this column, the IMF’s Chief Economist Olivier Blanchard argues that the programme deals squarely with the two most fundamental issues facing Greece – high debt and low competitiveness. And it is also fair, asking for sacrifices of both Greece and its creditors.