Monday, March 19, 2012
The Logic and Fairness of Greece’s Program
March 19, 2012
To get back to health, Greece needs two things. First, a lower debt burden. Second, improved economic competitiveness. The new program addresses both.
Bringing down the debt
Some countries have been able to work down heavy public debt burdens. Those that were successful did it through sustained high growth. But in Greece’s case, it had become clear that high growth—let alone sustained high growth—was not going to come soon enough. Debt had to be restructured.
The process was long and messy. After all, bargaining between creditors and debtors is rarely a love affair. In the process, foreign creditors were often vilified in Greece as bad guys—rich banks, who could and should be willing to take a hit. But in the end, banks belong to people, many of them saving for retirement, who saw the value of their bank shares go down in value.
All said, the PSI (private sector involvement) deal—the largest ever negotiated write-down of public debt—has reduced the debt burden of every man, woman, and child in Greece by close to €10,000 on average, a sizable contribution on the part of foreign savers.
Greece now has to do its part―with sustained political commitment to implement the difficult but necessary set of fiscal, financial, and structural reforms that have been agreed as part of the program supported by Greece’s partners in the eurozone and the IMF. It is a huge challenge, no doubt. But it is also an opportunity–to take advantage of the economic space opened up by private and official creditors. Will Greece seize it?