Sunday, February 12, 2012

12/2/2012: A road map to a cooperative solution for Greek crisis

Papandreou: 'this is a battle between the markets and democracy'.

Greek political discourse - mirroring the received wisdom of the crowds has been reduced to a blatant, and populist lie.

The battles in Greece today are between democracy and European/ECB dogma of preserving the status quo of existent statist system, of which patronage by the State of some markets participants is just an element. Here's why:

  1. The markets did not impose ANY conditions on Greece - EU/ECB did. The markets simply refuse to be conned any longer into subsidizing the Greek state through cheap credit. This is the basic right of any participant in the markets - to refuse investing or lending to anyone, just as it is the right of any baker to refuse selling bread to someone with no money and no desire to pay on credit.
  2. The markets investors are the injured party - excluding the bottom-fishing hedge funds who bought Greek bonds very recently at hefty discounts. The investors are the only ones who were first deceived by the Greek Governments cooking books and fudging numbers in official statistics. The investors should have known better, but that is not a valid defense of the case against them - they were deceived by fraudulent data reporting by the Greek State (yes, right - politicians, Governments, civil servants). The markets/investors are also the only ones who have to take any writedowns. The ECB and the European Union are taking no writedowns on Greek bonds, and are, in fact, lending Greece 'rescue funds' at a profit. 
I am pointing this not to prevent imposition of losses on Greek bonds investors. They deserve to lose and they should lose more than 70-75% of the face value of their investments in Greek bonds.

I am writing this to point that the battle we are facing in Athens today is between people pushed to a breaking point by the policies of the Governments past, and the EU/ECB.

And there is a way out, folks. Here's what should be done:

  1. Impose full losses on Greek bondholders to bring debt/GDP ratio in Greece to 75%. Do same for banks bondholders in Ireland and Spain, and combine these sovereign and banking measures to achieve the same in Portugal and Belgium. Seniority under these arrangements should be as follows: private sector debt holders take the first hit, followed by the public debt holders.
  2. All PIIGS bonds held by the ECB are to be transferred into a separate holding fund. This fund is to run between 2012 and 2021. Bonds are to be held in the fund not at face value, but at purchase value to instantaneously reduce debt overhang in these countries. Note: this imposes no loss on ECB until the fund is wound up.
  3. The ECB Special Fund (outlined in (2) above) is to monitor the conditions of compliance with real (not the currently identified) reforms aiming to restructure PIIGS economies to put them on the path of private sector-driven growth and fiscal sustainability over 10 years horizon.
  4. No coupon payments or principal repayments to be accepted by the ECB on these bonds between 2012 and 2021 to reduce debt overhang drag on the participating economies and improving their fiscal capacity to implement reforms.
  5. The bonds held in the ECB fund are to be automatically written down to zero face value in 2021 as long as the participating country meets conditions of implementing the reforms.
The above proposal will eliminate or severely restrict the problem of moral hazard, as countries participating in the programme will be subject to strict reforms programme implementation. The plan will also reduce the burden of repayment of debt on the countries that do stick to the conditions of the reforms. The plan will also bring, gradually, these countries economies to more competitive institutional, fiscal and regulatory environment. In other words, the proposal contains both the sticks (under items (2), (3) and conditionality) and the carrots (items (4) and (5)).

In other words, the fund, as outlined above, would satisfy core objectives of the crisis resolution framework:
  • Allow for meaningful change and reforms
  • Create an incentive to participate actively in reforms for the countries engaged with the fund
  • Reduce moral hazard problem
  • Help to establish popular support for reforms by providing real, tangible improvement in the economies ability to sustain reforms
We can't keep fighting battles driven by noble objectives, but based on faulty logic that simply serves the very same elites that have created this crisis. We need to find a cooperative solution to the problems we face.
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