Wednesday, November 21, 2012

On Greece, Europe should listen to the IMF

by Mohamed El-Erian

Financial Times

November 21, 2012

Despite a courageous public stance by the International Monetary Fund, European officials failed again on Tuesday to deal with the critical issue of Greece’s debt sustainability. If this continues, they will undermine yet another bailout package for Greece and suffer further erosion in credibility, especially in the eyes of their own citizens. They also risk seeing another hard-fought cash infusion do little more than buy a few months for a struggling Greek population.

Greece’s problems are well documented. Years of economic mismanagement and resource misallocations have left the country with poor competitiveness, a bloated public sector, way too much debt, and bankrupt banks. To complicate matters further, the country’s short-term economic aspirations are yet to converge with the country’s inconvenient truths.

The political and social dimension is also concerning. Unlike other notable sovereign debt crises (South Korea in 1998, Brazil in 2002-3, Iceland in 2008-9, and Ireland in the past three years), Greek citizens continue to protest and disengage, showing no sign of rallying behind their elected officials in a national recovery effort.

This latest bailout package is meant to improve things: by injecting more money into an economy riddled with payments arrears and virtually no financing for working capital (let alone new plants and equipment); and by accompanying this temporary financial relief with measures to bring the budget under control, recapitalise banks and expand growth-enhancing structural reforms.


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