The European Union has just kicked the Greek crisis down the road with an €86 billion [$96 billion – ₤62 billion] euro bailout supported by draconian austerity measures. The plan is to stabilize the Greek economy in 3 years’ time and ensure repayment in full of the national debt. The EU is just whistlin’ Dixie. It just ain’t going to happen.
Christine Lagarde is right in predicting failure and calling for debt forgiveness. Angela Merkel is wrong in demanding repayment in full and denying reality.
I am not Paul Krugman, the Nobel Prize winner, New York Times columnist and Princeton University economics professor. Nor am I Christine Lagarde, the head of the International Monetary Fund, Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor or Wolfgang Schäuble her Finance Minister – all of them with advanced university degrees, all players in today’s Greek tragedy. The best I can offer is a year of university economics and a nodding acquaintance with division and multiplication.
But by applying basic arithmetic I come to the conclusion that Greece is the land of the Walking Dead, death defying financial zombies and here is why:
The population of Greece is 11,125,000 with a national debt of $380 billion dollars or $34,000 of debt for every Greek man, woman and child. But that figure is misleading. Adults [15-64 year olds] count for 66% of the population. With unemployment at 26%, the wage earning population is only 5.4 million each saddled with $70,000 of public debt.
Greek sovereign debt carries interest rates that range from 2.5% on loans made by the EU, IMF and World Bank to 11.4% on loans held by institutional and private investors – say an average of 7.5%.
Can Greece and the gainfully employed ever repay this debt? No fucking way. It’s mathematically impossible. It can’t happen.
Do not listen to the experts, the Krugmans, Schäubles, Lagardes or even me. See for yourself. Go on line and access any credit card debt calculator application and enter the numbers with a projected $100 a month, per person repayment schedule. What do you get? “Your payments are not enough to cover the accumulated interest. Try increasing the payments.”
Lower the interest rate to 2.5% – the suggested interest rate for the new bailout – and you get the same answer in bold red letters “Your payments are not enough to cover the accumulated interest. Try increasing the payments”. Make the monthly payment $150 a month and it will take Greece 150 years to repay the debt. At a 7.5% interest rate the debt can never be repaid.
While most EU’s leaders and lenders have been relentless in pursuing repayment in full, Christine Lagarde has broken ranks and declared Greece’s “debt sustainability … not possible without a haircut”. She and the IMF have concluded that Greece will never regain financial viability with the national debt at its present level. They see the only solution major debt forgiveness, a painful but necessary adjustment from wishful thinking to unpleasant reality.
Even the most sanguine of the hard line repayment hawks such as Germany’s Finance Minister Schäuble state that they “will definitively … not rely on [empty] promises” and will “not to make calculations that … [they] cannot believe in”. But after publicly saying so with a straight and earnest faces they go on and do so in spades.
The July 12, 2015 Euro Summit Statement outlining the bailout is full of demands and constraints but devoid of computations showing how the debt will be repaid and rescue managed. Flatly contradicting Lagarde’s and the IMF experts’ reasoned mathematically sound position the Statement “stresses that nominal haircuts on the debt cannot be undertaken”. No debt forgiveness, damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead; Greece, your money or your life.
The craven Greeks “authorities”, not to be outdone and making promises and calculations no one with a modicum of sanity believes in, “reiterate their unequivocal commitment to honour their financial obligations to all their creditors fully and in a timely manner”. [emphasis supplied]
The EU boys up in Brussels are either delusional, in deep denial or simply putting off the day of reckoning hoping for an economic version of the “five loaves and two fish” miracle. Their craven Greek counterparts have abandoned their fight for economic survival and surrendered Greek sovereignty.
For the next 3 years banks and financial institutions will grow fat off the Greek debt while the poor in Greece suffer and starve and then Greece will yet again became a crisis and front page news.
Deyan Ranko Brashich, an attorney and Op Ed columnist lives and write from New York and is a frequent contributor. He is the author of Letters from America and Contrary Views. His contact and blog “Contrary Views” is at www.deyanbrashich.com