Monday, July 25, 2011

Greek rescue bizarrely increases its debts

by Hugo Dixon

July 25, 2011

Listen to the politicians and one might think that Greece’s debts will fall as a result of last week’s provisional rescue by euro zone leaders and private-sector creditors. In fact, they go up. Athens’ borrowings will increase by 31 billion euros under the rescue scheme, according to an analysis by Reuters Breakingviews. This increase, equivalent to 14 percent of GDP, will push the country’s estimated peak debt/GDP ratio next year to 179 percent.

This bizarre result comes because of the way the different elements of the fearfully complex rescue plan interact. Greece will need to borrow extra funds to enhance the creditworthiness of the new bonds it will provide the private sector. It will also need to inject capital into its own banks. These extra borrowings amount to 55 billion euros and will more than outweigh the reduction in Greece’s debts that comes as a result of haircuts to be agreed by private-sector creditors and a planned buyback of debt at a discount to its face value.

The Breakingviews analysis is at variance with comments made by Nicolas Sarkozy, France’s president. He said after the July 21 summit of euro zone leaders that Greece’s debts would fall by 24 percentage points of GDP. This was because he ignored the costs of “credit enhancement” and bank recapitalisation. He also included in the debt reduction 12 percentage points of GDP coming from the fact that Athens will be paying low interest rates on its official loans. While this will definitely improve the country’s debt sustainability, the benefit (under Sarkozy’s maths) will be spread over 10 years.


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