Joseph E. Stiglitz writes: As the Greek saga continues, many have marveled at Germany’s chutzpah. It received, in real terms, one of the largest bailout and debt reduction in history and unconditional aid from the U.S. in the Marshall Plan. And yet it refuses even to discuss debt relief. Many, too, have marveled at how Germany has done so well in the propaganda game, selling an image of a long-failed state that refuses to go along with the minimal conditions demanded in return for generous aid.
The facts prove otherwise: From the mid-90’s to the beginning of the crisis, the Greek economy was growing at a faster rate than the EU average (3.9% vs 2.4%). The Greeks took austerity to heart, slashing expenditures and increasing taxes. They even achieved a primary surplus (that is, tax revenues exceeded expenditures excluding interest payments), and their fiscal position would have been truly impressive had they not gone into depression. Their depression — 25% decline in GDP and 25% unemployment, with youth unemployment twice that — is because they did what was demanded of them, not because of their failure to do so. It was the predictable and predicted response to the austerity.
The question now is: What’s next, assuming (as seems ever more likely) they are effectively thrown out of the euro? It’s likely that the European Central Bank will refuse to do its job—as the Central Bank for Greece, it should do what every central bank is supposed to do, act as a lender of last resort. And if it refuses to do that, Greece will have no option but to create a parallel currency. The ECB has already begun tightening the screws, making access to funds more and more difficult.
This is not the end of the world: Currencies come and go. The euro is just a 16-year-old experiment, poorly designed and engineered not to work—in a crisis money flows from the weak country’s banks to the strong, leading to divergence. GDP today is more than 17% below where it would have been had the relatively modest growth trajectory of Europe before the euro just continued. I believe the euro has much to do with this disappointing performance. [Continue reading…]
The New York Times reports: As Greece hurtles toward a Sunday deadline for either reaching a bailout deal or risking a hasty exit from the eurozone, the one certainty is that its economy is already on the brink of collapse.
Businesses and humanitarian organizations are warning that the social and commercial damage now evident could become deeper and longer lasting if Greece and its international creditors cannot finally come to terms on a new bailout package.
“Greece already has a humanitarian crisis, and we’ll have to prepare for a harder aftermath if a deal collapses,” Nikitas Kanakis, the president of the board of directors of the Athens chapter of Doctors of the World, a health care charity, said on Wednesday. “I’m not sure how proud we should feel about letting social destruction return within Europe.”
With banks closed and the government virtually out of money, Greece has become isolated from the international economy — a big problem for a country that relies on imports for 65 percent of its goods. [Continue reading…]