July 11th, 2011
in Op Ed
by Guest Author Warren Mosler (bio here)
this article originally appeared in Warren's Blog The Center of the Universe
The Mosler Plan is now making the rounds in Europe as an alternative to the French Plan that is currently under serious consideration:
The following is an outline for a proposed new Greek government bond issue to provide all required medium term euro funding for Greece on very attractive terms.
The new bond issue includes an addition to the default provisions that eliminates the risk of loss to investors. The language added to the default provisions states that while in default, and only in the case of default, these transferable securities can be used directly, by the bearer on demand, at face value plus accrued interest, for payment of any debts, including taxes, owed to the Greek government.
By eliminating the risk of loss, Greece will be able to independently fund all required financial obligations in the market place for the foreseeable future. The immediate benefits are both reduced interest costs that substantially contribute to deficit reduction, and the elimination of the need for the funding assistance from the European Union and the IMF.
Introduction- Restoring National Sovereignty
Current institutional arrangements have resulted in Greece being faced with escalating interest costs when it attempts to fund itself in the market place, to the point where timely funding is not currently available without external assistance. This requirement for external assistance to avoid default has further resulted in a loss of sovereignty, with the EU and IMF offering funding only on their approval of deficit reduction plans by the Greek government that meet specific requirements. Compliance with these demands from the EU and IMF not only include tax increases, spending cuts, and privatizations, but also include aggressive time lines for achieving their deficit reduction goals. It is also understood by all parties that the immediate near term consequences of these imposed austerity measures will include further slowing of the economy, and rising unemployment.
Greece will restore national sovereignty, and regain control of the process of full compliance with the general EU requirements for all member nations, only when it restores its financial independence. Financial independence will allow Greece to again be master of its own destiny, on an equal basis with the other EU members. And the lower interest rate that result(s) from this proposed bond issue will itself be a substantial down payment on the required deficit reduction, easing the requirements for tax increases, spending cuts, and privatizations.
While this proposal restores Greek national sovereignty, and eases funding burdens, we recognize that it is only the first step in restoring the Greek economy. Even with funding independence and low interest rates the Greek government still faces a monumental task in bringing Greece into full compliance with EU requirements and restoring economic output and employment. However, it should also be recognized that financial independence and low cost funding are the critical first steps to long term success.
The Bond Issue- No Risk of Financial Loss
Market based funding at the lowest possible interest rates requires investors who understand there is no ultimate risk of financial loss, and that the promise to pay principal and interest by the issuer is credible. To be credible, a borrower must have the means to meet all contractual euro obligations on a timely basis. For Greece this has meant investors must have the confidence that Greece can generate sufficient revenues through taxing and borrowing to repay its debts.
The credit worthiness of any loan begins with the default provisions. While there may be unconditional promises to pay, investors nonetheless value what their rights are in the event the borrower does not pay. Corporate debt often includes rights to specific collateral, priorities in specific revenues, and other credit enhancing support.
The new proposed Greek bond issue, with its provision that in the event of default the bonds can be used at face value, plus interest, for the payment of taxes by the bearer on demand, gives the bond holder absolute assurance that full maturity value in euro can always be achieved. And with this absolute assurance that these new securities are necessarily ‘money good’ the ability to refinance is established which dramatically reduces the risk of the default provisions actually being triggered. And, again, should there be a default event, the investor will still get full value for his investment as the entire euro value of the defaulted securities can be used at any time for the payment of Greek taxes. So while this discussion concerns the case of default, the removal of the risk of loss means there will always be demand for them at near risk free market interest rates, and that the default discussion is, for all practical purposes, hypothetical.
These new Greek government bonds will be of particular interest to banks, which, again, encourages bank ownership, which makes default that much more remote a possibility. This is because, in the case of default, a bank holding any of these defaulted securities will be able to use them for payment of taxes on behalf of bank clients (using that bank for payment of their taxes). Under these circumstances, a bank depositor client making payment of euro would, in effect, simultaneously buy the defaulted securities from the bank and use them to pay the Greek government taxes due. Again, the fact that the bank would be fully paid for its defaulted securities in the process of depositors paying their taxes means there will be no default in the first place, as these favorable consequences mean there will be continuous demand for new securities of this type at competitive market interest rates, to facilitate all Greek refinancing requirements.
The new ‘money good’ Greek bonds will be attractive to all global investors, both private and public. This will include international banks, insurance companies, pension funds, and other private investors, as well as sovereign wealth funds and foreign central banks which are accumulating euro reserves.
As a member in good standing of the European Union, Greece, like all the member nations, is required to be in full compliance of all EU requirements. Therefore, while this proposal will restore national sovereignty, financial independence, and lower interest rates for Greece, austerity measures will continue to be required to bring Greece into EU compliance. However, Greece will gain substantial flexibility with regard to timing and other specific detail, and will be able to work to achieve its goals in an organized, orderly manner, without the continued pressures of default risk and without the specific terms and conditions currently being demanded by the EU and the IMF. Nor will the ECB be required to buy Greek bonds in the market place, obviating those demands as well.
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