This week we had the data release by Eurostat showing the fiscal position of the euro area sovereigns for 2013, followed by the statement by the Troika (EU Commission, the ECB and the IMF) on Greece's fiscal position.
Based on data-driven Eurostat conclusions (see details here: http://trueeconomics.blogspot.ie/2014/04/2342014-some-scary-reading-from-eurostat.html) Greek fiscal deficit was 12.7% of GDP in 2013. Based on the Troika conclusions, Greece has managed to generate a budget surplus of 0.8% of GDP in 2013. The two numbers are so widely apart that the case of 'thou shalt not spin too much' comes to mind.
In reality, to arrive at 0.8% surplus, the Troika had to do some pretty extreme dancing around the real figures: they took out non-recurring spending out of the Greek deficits (all banks measures and all interest paid on gargantuan 175.1% of GDP Government debt). Just how on earth can debt interest payments be non-recurring is anyone's guess. But even removing that (to arrive at normal definition of primary deficits), the official primary deficit for Greece at the end of 2013 stands at 8.7% of GDP. The swing of 9.5% of GDP bringing this to a surplus of 0.8% is 'banks measures'.
The problem is that with 12.7% of GDOP deficit and 8.7% primary deficit in 2013 and with debt of 175.1% of GDP, Greece is plain simply and undeniably an insolvent state. This is precisely why exactly at the time of the above data publication and at the time when the Troika was extolling the virtues of the fiscal surplus in Greece, the very same European authorities praising Greek Government were announcing that they have engaged in a new round of debt relief negotiations with Greece (http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/9ec817d8-cadf-11e3-9c6a-00144feabdc0.html#axzz301XTTXyT).
Meanwhile, bust, bankrupted and in new default talks, Greek Government is hell-bent on buying votes into the upcoming European elections. Per FT account linked above:
"About 70 per cent of the [bogus Greek] primary surplus has already been allocated for current expenses rather than for writing down existing debt, according to the finance ministry. The government has set aside €524m as a one-off payment to low-income families and pensioners ahead of next month’s European elections. Another €320m will cover a projected deficit this year at IKA, the main social security organisation, following a decision agreed with international lenders to cut employers’ contributions."
This is truly epic: European authorities praising national Government for bogus surpluses that are explicitly being used to fund giveaways to vulnerable voters groups at the time of elections. This is 'reformed Europe'?
This is precisely the circus that is driving up valuations of peripheral bonds (http://mobile.bloomberg.com/news/2014-04-23/samaras-met-dimon-for-greek-bonds-on-way-to-a-400-return.html?alcmpid=markets) and that has an exactly negative correlation with the underlying strength / structural health of some of the peripheral economies (see my comment on this here: http://trueeconomics.blogspot.ie/2014/04/2542014-ecb-denmark-negative-rates.html).