Friday, June 15, 2012

15/6/2012: Some probabilities for post-Greek elections outcomes

Some probabilistic evaluations of post-Greek elections scenarios and longer range scenarios for the euro area:

In considering the possible scenarios for Ireland’s position for post-Greek elections period, one must have an explicit understanding of the current conditions and the likelihood of the euro area survival into the future.

Short-term scenarios:

In my opinion, there is currently a 60% chance that Greece will remain within the euro area post elections, but will exit the common currency within 3 years.  Under this scenario, the ECB – either via ESM or directly – will have to provide support for an EU-wide system of banking deposits guarantees, and new writedowns of Greek debt, as well as full support package for Spain’s exchequer and banks. Ireland, in such a case, can, in the short term, benefit from some debt restructuring. Part of the package that will allow euro area to survive intact for longer than 6-12 months will involve increased transfer of structural funds to stimulate capital investment in the periphery, including Ireland.

On the other side of the spectrum, there is a 40% probability that Greece exits the euro area within 12 months either in a unilateral, unsupported and highly disorderly fashion (20%) or via facilitated exit programme supported by the euro area (20%). In the latter case, Ireland’s chances to achieve significant writedown of our debts will be severely restricted and our longer term membership within the euro area will be put in question. In the former case, post-Greek exit, the euro area will require very similar restructuring of debts and real economy transfers as in the first option above. Here, there is an equal chance that the EU will fail to put forward reasonable measures for preventing contagion from the disorderly Greek default to other countries, including Ireland, which would constitute the worst outcome for all member states involved.

Longer-term scenarios: 

In terms of longer horizon – beyond 3 years, the scenarios hinge on no disorderly default by Greece in short term, thus focusing on 80% probability segment of the above short term scenarios.

With probability of ca 30%, the coordinated response via ECB/ESM to the immediate crisis will require creation of a functional fiscal union. The union will have to address a number of structural bottlenecks. Fiscal discipline will have to be addressed via enforcement of the Fiscal Compact – a highly imperfect set of metrics, with doubtful enforceability. Secondly, the union will have to address the problem of competitiveness in euro area economies, most notably all peripheral GIIPS, plus Belgium, the Netherlands (household debt), France. As mentioned in the short-term scenario 1 above, growth must be decoupled from debt overhang and this will require simultaneous restructuring of real economic debt (corporate, household and government), operational system of banks insolvencies, and investment transfers to the peripheral states. The reason for the probability of this option being set conservatively at 30% is that I see no immediate capacity within euro area to enact such sweeping legislative and economic transformations. Much discussed Eurobonds will not deliver on this, as euro area’s capacity to issue such will not, in my view, exceed new financing capability in excess of 10% of euro area GDP.

The second longer-term scenario involves a 60% probability of the euro area breakup over 2-5 years. This can take the form of a break up into broadly-speaking two types of post-Euro arrangements.

The first break up arrangement will see emergence of the strong euro, with Germany at its core. Currently, such a union can include Finland, Benelux, Austria, and possibly France, Slovakia, and Slovenia. The remaining member states are most likely going to see re-introduction of national currencies. Alternatively, we might see reintroduction of 17 old currencies. Italy is a big unknown in the case of its membership in the strong euro.

In my view, once the process of currency unwinding begins, it will be difficult to contain centrifugal forces and the so-called ‘weak’ euro is unlikely to stick. Most likely combination of the ‘strong’ euro membership will have Germany, Benelux, Finland and Austria bound together.

Lastly, there is a small (10 percent) chance that the EU will be able to continue muddling through the current path of partial solutions and time-buying. External conditions must be extremely favourable to allow the euro area to continue in its current composition and this is now unlikely.

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