Thursday, March 15, 2012

Has Europe learnt from the mistakes made in Greek debt crisis?

by Lorenzo Bini Smaghi

Financial Times

March 15, 2012

The markets seem to have coped relatively well with “the biggest sovereign restructuring ever” last week. But they are already focusing on the next possible victim: Portugal’s bond yields have soared to levels close to those on Greek bonds a few months ago.

European authorities have declared that Greece was unique and that there will be no more debt restructuring. Undoubtedly, though, they will be tested in the coming months. Two strategies are possible.

One is to behave in the same way as in the past. This means helplessly observing the widening of credit default swap spreads on sovereign bonds until it becomes obvious that the country in question will not be able to refinance itself in the markets; then publicly denying that restructuring is even an option, but privately considering involving private creditors and even discussing the details with some market participants; finally, hastily putting in place an additional package and asking the various countries’ parliaments for approval, which they might be willing to consider… but only in exchange for debt restructuring.

Unless this approach is quickly abandoned, Greece will turn out not to be an exception after all. Markets would turn to the next prey, like in Agatha Christie’s Ten Little Indians. Who will be next? Ireland? Spain? Italy? Where would the process stop?


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