The Logic and Fairness of Greece’s Program


By Olivier Blanchard

(Version in ελληνικά عربي)

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) dealthe 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?

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Lagarde in Davos: How to Avoid an Economic Deep Freeze


By iMFdirect

Amid the heaviest snowfall in Davos for decades, IMF chief Christine Lagarde has been making her case for urgent action to resolve the eurozone crisis, which is at the center of current global economic concerns. The Fund recently sharply revised downward its forecast for global economic growth and in a speech in Berlin Lagarde mapped a way forward.

Policy priorities

Lagarde has taken her messages to the Alpine resort in Switzerland, where global leaders are gathered for the 42nd Annual Meeting of the World Economic Forum. At the top of the agenda is the need to find and implement the policy solutions to avoid a downward economic spiral—or what Lagarde as has called a “1930s moment.” She set out some of the policy priorities in a video interview and stressed the need for policy action to be “coordinated, cooperative and comprehensive”. The main goal is to get growth going again “because that’s most needed. There is too much unemployment around the world,” Lagarde said. Continue reading

Toughing It Out: How the Baltics Defied Predictions


By Christoph Rosenberg

Two years ago, the eyes of the financial world were not on Europe’s Western periphery but on its North-Eastern corner. The three Baltic states—Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania—were among the first victims of the global financial crisis.

After a spectacular boom, with several years of Chinese-style growth rates, these small and open economies faced an equally spectacular bust. Credit―and with it property prices, consumption, and investment―collapsed. Exports were hit by the global depression. And the financial sector came under severe stress. Indeed, Latvia was forced to nationalize its largest domestic bank and had to ask for a bailout from the European Union and the IMF.

The conventional wisdom at the time was that these three countries would have to give up their long-standing currency pegs against the euro and devalue. After all, this is what countries facing a trade and financial shock most often choose to do.

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Key Links for the Greek Financing Package


Greece announced May 2 it had reached agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the European Commission, and the European Central Bank (ECB) on a targeted program to stabilize its economy, become more competitive, and restore market confidence with the support of a €110 billion (about $145 billion) financing package.

Negotiators over the weekend wrapped up details of the package, involving budget cuts, a freeze in wages and pensions for three years, and tax increases to address Greece’s fiscal and debt problems, along with deep reforms designed to strengthen Greece’s competitiveness and revive stalled economic growth.

Here’s links to key documents and material about Greece:

Greek Prime Minister announces agreement with the EU and the IMF
IMF Survey magazine article on the weekend deal
IMF approves loan
The IMF and Greece: fast facts
IMF and Greece: country page
IMF Managing Director on the program
Eurogroup ministers’ statement
Straus-Kahn and Merkel: pre-deal talks
Video: IMF mission chief explains the program
Institute of International Finance reaction
Video: Trichet sees program as decisive
Video: IMF mission chief on CNBC
ECB action
IMF welcomes euro stabilization plan
Straus-Kahn interviewed by Euronews

Crisis Lessons to Remember for Europe’s Policymakers


 By Marek Belka

(Version in ελληνικά)

Let’s think now about some of the lessons from the global economic crisis for Europe’s policymakers. In my previous five blogs, I’ve discussed the challenges faced by both advanced and emerging European economies as we emerge from the acute phase of  the crisis. The questions I attempted to answer have included: In what shape and form will European integration survive the crisis? Will eastern Europe be able to sustain its remarkable catching up with living standards in western Europe?

For my final blog in this series on iMFdirect, I have decided to add a personal touch and draw on my experience as a former policymaker. So while this article builds on the previous five posts, it goes beyond them and includes some highly subjective comments on what lessons I believe the reformers in eastern Europe should take away from the crisis. And, although my primary focus is on countries outside the eurozone, it is clear that the eurozone will need to address long-term challenges, as I pointed out in my post After the Crisis, Much Still at Stake for Eurozone.

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After the Crisis, Much Still at Stake for Eurozone


By Marek Belka

(Version in ελληνικά)

What a difference a year makes. January 2009 marked 10 years since the introduction of the euro. That anniversary fell in the midst of the worst global financial crisis in the past half century.

The euro—and the European Central Bank—proved important safeguards against the spread of the crisis. Countries whose currencies would likely have been subject to severe market gyrations had they not been part of the eurozone held their ground. And the ECB used innovative approaches, along with central banks around the world, to help provide liquidity and calm markets.

But as the crisis progressed, it became clear that the eurozone countries were affected in very different ways.

Markets took notice and the premia charged on sovereign bonds diverged. This month, as the euro turns 11 and even as the crisis is receding and an economic recovery is underway, prominent commentators—including Martin Wolf and Paul Krugman—are concerned that the strains within the eurozone are serious, and will need serious attention.

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