May 16, 2011

When rescue packages are not enough, a Greek tragedy in the making.

The astonishingly beautiful deep blue waters of the Aegean sea must be starting to boil as of now, with the economic situation in Greece heating up even further. Debt-to-GDP ratio has reached 143%, Credit Default Swaps are at 1371 basis points, S&P downgraded (once more) Greek debt to B rating from BB-, taking it only two steps about the C rating, which effectively erases one from financing and flags you as someone waiting to default. To make matters worse, often-violent demonstrations are stopping the country's already ailing economy day after day. I truly can understand the frustration the situation causes, but halting economic activity is clearly the worst thing to do in the actual situation...


Another rescue package, combined from both the European Union and the IMF (with or without Dominique Strauss-Kahn), seems to be in the way but its effectiveness is already in doubt. A recent poll shows almost everybody thinks this would be artificial life support for Greek debt. Sooner or later a default or a painful debt restructuring process seems to be coming. Not being a debt restructuring expert, just based in common sense I can only say: make it sooner rather than later.
Extending this situation is bad for everybody, it is bad for Greece's future, bad for Portugal and Ireland debt prices and bad for the whole euro area's stability. Stop being stuck in the actual situation, a situation that slowly built the hole where you are now. Just change everything! 

First thing, go out and make the people understand why spending cuts and privatizations are basic, unavoidable and necessary to have a future. You can not afford to have your people burning policemen, destroying everything that comes close and shutting down air transport... Tourism is a keystone in Greece's actual economy, so flying stones and burnt buses are not the best of promotions for the country. In fact any company thinking of investing in Greece as of now would be held back but the situation on the streets.


What Greece needs now is stability to be able to bring fresh, foreign investment to the country. The government must privatize everything non-strategic (I am not talking islands, I am talking public enterprises) where a price tag can be put. This is not only a way of making cash to pay bills and buy-back debt; it is the way to lower the burden these highly-inefficient public enterprises put on your balance. Of course this move will be highly unpopular among civil servants, but the entire country's future is more important than those civil servants.  There are 12 million people in Greece, the privileges of a few thousand civil servants can not get in the way of an entire nation's future...

Greece needs an outcome to the actual situation soon. Because only with stability they do have a chance of taking the country back on rails.

P.S. Greece is maybe the biggest example of what happens when the government takes the starring role in the economy, with inefficient public companies growing without control and spending beyond logic limits. Once you have committed the error of giving too much power and privileges to civil servants it is very difficult to make the economy grow.

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