Tuesday, March 26, 2013
New York Times
March 26, 2013
A correspondent whom I respect has (gently) challenged me to say plainly what I think Cyprus should do — leaving aside all questions about political realism. And he’s right: while I think it’s OK to spend most of my time on this blog working within the limits of the politically possible, and relying on a combination of reason and ridicule to push out those limits over time, once in a while I should just flatly state what I would do if given a chance.
So here it is: yes, Cyprus should leave the euro. Now.
The reason is straightforward: staying in the euro means an incredibly severe depression, which will last for many years while Cyprus tries to build a new export sector. Leaving the euro, and letting the new currency fall sharply, would greatly accelerate that rebuilding.
If you look at Cyprus’s trade profile, you see just how much damage the country is about to sustain. This is a highly open economy with just two major exports, banking services and tourism — and one of them just disappeared. This would lead to a severe slump on its own. On top of that, the troika is demanding major new austerity, even though the country supposedly has rough primary (non-interest) budget balance. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a 20 percent fall in real GDP.