Wednesday, May 11, 2016

11/5/16: 7+1 Steps Guide to Greek Crisis Madness

Greece is back in the news recently with yet another round of crisis talks and measures. Here's where we stand on the matter.

After another Eurogroup 'talks' this week, Greek Government is back to drawing up a new set of 'measures' to be presented to the Parliament. These 'measures' are, once again, needed for yet another Eurogroup agreement of yet more loans to the country.

The madness of this recurring annual spectacle that the EU, the Greeks and the IMF have been going through is so apparent and so predictable by now, that anywhere outside Greece itself it is simply banal.

The scenario is developing exactly along the same lines as before:

  1. Greeks are running out money
  2. Greek loans funds are not being remitted by the EU because of the 'lack of progress on 'reforms' which were never progressed since the Bailouts 1.0 & 2.0.
  3. Greek Government insists that no more 'reforms' can be imposed onto the Greek economy because there is already no economy left due to previously imposed 'reforms'
  4. IMF threatens to walk out and European authorities become 'doubtful' of Greek commitments to 'reforms'
  5. European authorities and Greece get into a room to hammer our (3) as a precondition for (2) both of which are necessary to avoid Greek default and are thus required to prevent (4).
  6. Greece agrees to more 'reforms', gets more loans, none of which have anything to do with actually supporting Greek economy
  7. Greek government declares another 'victory' on the road of the country 'exit from an era of creditors', whilst creditors become ever more committed to Greece.
  8. Within 6 months, (1) repeats anew...

And this is exactly what has been happening over the recent days.

Government partner Panos Kammenos has already heralded “Greece’s exit from an era of creditors" this week in the wake of the promises by Greece to implement new round of 'reforms' aimed at placating the EU and the IMF into providing fresh credit to Greece. The target date for Greek Government putting its tail between its legs for the umpteenth time is May 24th when the Eurogroup is supposed to meet to decide on the next round of debt financing for Greece.
What are the latest 'reforms' about?

  1. New privatization fund (because previous one did nada, zilch, nothing) to sell state assets (with hugely inflated expected valuations) to investors (read vultures) to generate funds (that will fall grossly short of) required to pay some debt down.
  2. New rules for working out non-performing bank loans (foreclosure & bankruptcy reforms) because under (1) above, vultures, sorry 'investors', ain't getting enough.  
  3. Load of new taxes (levying coffee, fuel and even web connections, for a modern economy cannot exists in the vacuum of knowledge taxes).
  4. Automatic cuts to fiscal spending should the Government breach targets on fiscal deficits assigned under 2015 'deal'.
  5. EUR5.4 billion in fresh budget cuts.

In return, Tsipras is getting Eurogroup's usual waffle.

The IMF (that actually holds more central position between the Greek and the EU corners) will probably be allowed to excuse itself from underwriting Bailout 3.0 agreed last Summer. This will load full Greek bailout cost onto the EU institutions - something that Europe is happy to do because the IMF has become a realist thorn in the hopium filled buttocks of European 'policymaking'. IMF will, of course, rubber stamp the Bailout 3.0 programme by remaining an 'advisory' institution (sort of like Irish Fiscal Council - bark, but no bite). In exchange, it will get European funds to repay IMF loans and will walk away from the saga with bruises, but no broken nose. Rumour has it, Germany will accept this role for the IMF but only if Greece agrees to become Europe's holding tank for refugees (it's an equivalent of Turkey Compromise with Athens that will make Erdogan livid with jealousy).

Tsipras will also receive another promise from the EU to examine Greek debt relief. By now, everyone forgot that the EU already promised to do so four years ago (see last page, 2nd paragraph in Eurogroup statement from November 27, 2012 and reiterated it in August 11, 2015 Bailout3.0 agreement). Thus, Tsipras will be able to put a new 'certificate of a promise' (written in French or German or both, for better effect) onto his cabinet wall, while being fully aware that a promise from the EU is about as good as a used car salesman's assurances about a vehicle's transmission. The only chance any sort of relief will be forthcoming is if the IMF amplifies its rhetoric about Greek debt 'sustainability', which may happen at the next G7 meeting next week, or may not happen for another six months... who knows?

Meanwhile, the saga rolls on. Protests in Greece - 'Everyone'sOutraged', are greeted by the markets as 'Things Are Going Swimmingly' just as IMF's team is shouting 'The Patient's Dead, You Morons!' while Germans are saying first 'Nothing's Happening' and a week later changing their minds to 'Things Are so Good, We'll Have a Deal' to the solo of a Greek official singing 'We've Been Half Dozing' and a chorus of EU leaders erupting with a jubilatory 'Lalala'.

Remember: we are in Europe! Mind the gap... with reality.

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