Friday, February 27, 2015

27/2/15: Of a momentary surrender and a longer fight: Greece v Eurogroup


Couple more earlier comments on Greek situation for print edition of Expresso, 31.12.2015 pages 8-9 and online http://expresso.sapo.pt/os-trabalhos-herculeos-de-varoufakis-mercados-financeiros-a-espera-da-lista-de-reformas=f911931, February 22, 2015.


English version of some of the comments:


# In which points did Greek delegation change its position?

Last night Eurogroup saw significant changes to the Greek Government position vis-a-vis the current bailout. Firstly, the Government has now abandoned its elections promises to achieve a debt write down and end the agreement with the Troika. Instead, the old agreement has been extended until the end of June on the basis of Greece committing to full implementation of the original Master Financial Assistance Facility Agreement (MFAFA) and, thus, Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). The dreaded austerity programme remains in place, despite the Greek Government claims to the contrary. The dreaded Troika is still there, now referenced as Institutions. Secondly, Greece failed to secure control over banks recapitalisation funding. A major point of Government plans was to use of some of these funds for the purpose of funding public investment and/or debt redemptions. This is no longer an option under the new bridging Agreement. Thirdly, the Greek Government failed to secure any concessions on the future programme. The Eurogropup conceded to allow the Greece to present its proposals for the future pos-MOU agreement, but any proposals will have to be with the parameters established by the current programme.


# In which points Germany change its hard position?

So far, Germany and the Eurogroup conceded nothing to the Greek Government. The much-discussed references in the Eurogroup statement that allow for some flexibility on fiscal targets, principally recognition of the economic conditions in computing the target primary surplus for 2015, is not a new concession. Under the MOU, present conditions were always a part of analysis performed to establish deficit targets and the current programme always allowed for some flexibility in targets application. Crucially, Greece went into the negotiations with two objectives in sight: reduction in the debt burden and reduction in the austerity burden. The fist objective was abandoned even before last night's Eurogroup meeting. The second objective was severely diluted when it comes to the Eurogroup statement and the bridging programme. There are no concessions relating to the future (post-June 2015) programme. In a sense, Germany won. Greece lost.


# What do you expect for the list of reforms to be presented on Monday?

We can expect the Greek Government to further moderate its position before Monday. The new set of proposals is likely to contain request for delays (not abandonment, as was planned before) of privatisations, a request for the primary deficit target for 2015 to be lowered to around 2-2.5% of GDP, and a request to allow for some of the past austerity measures to be frozen, rather than reversed, for the duration of 2015. The Greek Government is likely to present new short term growth strategy based on a promise to enforce more rigorously taxation, set higher tax rates on higher earners, in exchange for using the resulting estimated 'savings' to fund public spending and jobs programme. The final agreement on these will likely be in the form of a temporary programme, covering 2015, and possible extension of this programme will be conditional on 2015 debt and deficit dynamics. Beyond Monday, however, a much more arduous task will be to develop a new programme. In very simple terms, Greece still requires a debt restructuring to cancel a significant quantum of current debt. This now appears to be off the table completely. As the result, any new agreement achieved before June 2015 will be inadequate in terms of restoring Greek economy to any sustainable growth path. Both Greece and Europe, today, are at exactly the same junction as two weeks ago: an insolvent economy is faced with the lenders unwilling to recognise the basics of financial realities.  
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