Monday, February 2, 2015

2/2/15: Greek Primary Surplus: A Steep Hill to Climb

My comment for Expresso (January 31, 2015, pages 8-9) on Greece:

Greece has undertaken an unprecedented level of budgetary adjustments as reflected in the rate of debt accumulation on the Government balance sheet and the size of the primary surplus. Stripping out the banking resolution measures, Greek Governments have managed to deliver general government deficit consolidation of some 13.8 percentage points based on forecast for 2015, compared to the peak crisis, with Irish Government coming in a distant second with roughly 9 percentage points and Portuguese authorities in the third place with 7.7 percentage points. These figures are confirmed by the reference to the structural deficits and primary deficits. 

Given the level of austerity carried by the Greek economy over the recent years, and taking into the account a significant (Euro16 billion) call on debt redemptions due this year, it is hard to see how the Greek Government can deliver doubling of a primary surplus from IMF-estimated 1.5% of GDP in 2014 to forecast 3% of GDP in 2015 and 4.5% in 2016. Even assuming no adverse shocks to the Greek economy, these levels of surpluses appear to be inconsistent with the structural position of the Greek economy and I would have very severe doubts as to whether even the 2-2.5% range of surpluses can be sustained over the medium term (2015-2020) horizon.

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