Friday, July 10, 2015

10/7/15: New Greek Proposals: Can + Foot ≠ Real Solution


Greek Government proposal to the EU on Bailout package 3.0 have been published here: http://www.naftemporiki.gr/finance/story/976680/the-greek-reform-proposals.

Quick read through suggests the following:

  • These proposals are pretty much in line with June 26th proposals that were subsequently rejected by the 'No' vote in the Greek referendum;
  • The 'new' proposals appear to be a complete climb down from the Greek Government counter-proposals on key areas of VAT, pensions and islands measures;
  • One key strategic point is that the new proposal accepts fully 'prior actions' principle of putting in place legislative backing for key early measures ahead of any bailout funds disbursal;
  • The 'new' proposals submitted to Institutions contain no reference to debt sustainability and debt relief, although it appears that a preamble to the document in Greek version does mention debt relief.  There are reports also that Greek proposals sent to the Parliament contain reference to the EU commitment to 'negotiate with Greece on the issue of debt sustainability post-2022'. Which, if true, is a dead giveaway, as no one will honour any commitments on such a time scale and absent any specific conditions on debt sustainability. 2022 is the year chosen because it is when EFSF repayments start. Most expensive debt to carry for Greece - IMF and ECB - is off limits for any restructuring under this timeline;
  • Crucially, the new proposal does not address in full how Greek banks ELA will be covered, and how the arrears to IMF will be covered. Neither does it explain how July 2015 debt repayments will be financed. This, jointly, means that the EUR53.5 billion request for new loans is not sufficient. The Institutions, most likely, will ask for a deposits bail-in. 
  • The only differences to the 'old' Institutions' proposals include: smaller cut in defence budget (EUR200mln instead of EUR400mln), slower phasing out of the islands reduced VAT rates (throughout 2016) and slower phasing out of the EKAS supplement on pensions.
  • Greek proposals contain a sub-clause of defined actions that will kick in automatically if fiscal targets are not met in the future. These include hikes on income tax for those earning EUR12,000 (2 percentage points to 35%).
  • Materially, the new 'proposal' involves EUR53.5 billion in new loans via ESM (ex-IMF): http://bigstory.ap.org/article/0743c14d12d34ea38d1043b5dbcdfba5/latest-eu-economics-chief-says-greece-deal-possible. IMF porgramme runs through April 2016 and, presumably, Bailout 3.0 is going to happen via ESM alone. Which is a net negative for Greece, since it will lose its only support on debt writedown side.

These are the details so far.

My view is that this proposal will probably be acceptable to the EU, which will close its eyes on two glaringly obvious things:
1. The proposal from the EU on which this current Greek counter proposal is based was based on assumptions and estimates that are at least 3 weeks old, and for some figures - older. Economic and fiscal losses since then have been significant and most likely remain un-covered by the current Greek proposal. These losses will not be terminated immediately post-agreement, so the Greeks have a much more serious problem on their hands.
2. Most importantly, the Greek proposal does nothing to address the existent debt overhang - the one that the IMF believes cannot be addressed via enhanced 'reforms' and increased 'austerity' and requires debt haircuts. 

However, I suspect that since avoiding Grexit is now clearly Greek Government priority, and since doing the same always was and remains the EU priority, both sides will ignore the discomforts of reality. In this case, under the Bailout 3.0, Greek debt will rise (once again), Greek economy will get a negative shock of higher taxation (corporate, personal and indirect), and a large number of Greek voters will get a strong sense of having been cheated out of their 'No' votes. And then there is the risk of looming deposits bail-ins...

This can kicking will not last long...

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