The Modern Greek Tin Can Tragedy

July 28th, 2011
in Op Ed

by Guest Author John Mauldin - Thoughts from the Frontline

My friends at GaveKal point out that this is “… the sixth time in 18 months European leaders have announced a definitive solution to the Euro crisis. Should this version of the final bailout be taken any more seriously than the first and second solutions to the Greek crisis in May and September 2010 or the Irish bailout of December 2010 or the Portuguese rescue package of March 2011 or the breakthrough vote in the Greek parliament of last month? The supposedly good news for markets was that the -21% haircuts to be imposed on Greek creditors (as estimated by banker groups) were less than half those suggested a few days ago.”

Follow up:

A 21% haircut is a bad joke. If you assume that Greece can afford to spend 10% of their revenues just to pay the interest, which is what they will need to be able to do to get out of their crisis, then the haircuts look more like 75-80%. Sean Egan, the most credible credit analyst in the country, estimated this week that the eventual haircuts on the Greek debt will be 90%.

You can read the release from the EU leaders in its entirety, if you like, at   I really have no idea what you should drink as you read it.

Here is what it really says: We are going to keep throwing good money after bad and work as hard as we can to transfer the debt that is on the banks to the ECB and European taxpayers as long as the voters will let us. This first tranche will be another €109 billion. That will last a few years, and Greece will only have to pay about 3.5% on that debt and the rollover debt, and people who expected to be repaid in that period will see payment extended to either 15 or 30 years.

You can call this what you like, and they call it “selective default,” but it is a default. There will be government guarantees on the debt, so the ECB can take it from the banks.

Let’s see what the “voluntary” debt rollovers will look like and what the likely debt destruction will be. This is from Global Macro Monitor.

First, notice that the plan claims haircuts will only be 21%. But that assumes you can sell the new bonds at a 9% interest rate. If the interests rate demanded by the market are 15%, which is closer to reality, the haircuts are closer to 67%, after what appears to be an initial 20% cut. Will any institution not immediately try and get those bonds into the hands of the ECB? This is just ugly.

I have to quote what may be the most laughable part of the whole document:

“4. We call for a comprehensive strategy for growth and investment in Greece. We welcome the Commission's decision to create a Task Force which will work with the Greek authorities to target the structural funds on competitiveness and growth, job creation and training. We will mobilise EU funds and institutions such as the EIB towards this goal and relaunch the Greek economy. Member States and the Commission will immediately mobilize all resources necessary in order to provide exceptional technical assistance to help Greece implement its reforms. The Commission will report on progress in this respect in October.”

Ok, the Greek economy is in a depression, so let’s fire up a jobs program. Run by socialists and bureaucrats. The entire Eurozone is slipping into a slow-growth recession, and these guys are just focusing on Greece.

Editor’s note: This opinion was part of the author’s weekly newsletter post at Thoughts from the Frontline, July 21, 2011. You can register for John’s free weekly newsletters at

Make a Comment

Econintersect wants your comments, data and opinion on the articles posted.  As the internet is a "war zone" of trolls, hackers and spammers - Econintersect must balance its defences against ease of commenting.  We have joined with Livefyre to manage our comment streams.

To comment, just click the "Sign In" button at the top-left corner of the comment box below. You can create a commenting account using your favorite social network such as Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn or Open ID - or open a Livefyre account using your email address.



Analysis Blog
News Blog
Investing Blog
Opinion Blog
Precious Metals Blog
Markets Blog
Video of the Day


Asia / Pacific
Middle East / Africa
USA Government

RSS Feeds / Social Media

Combined Econintersect Feed

Free Newsletter

Marketplace - Books & More

Economic Forecast

Content Contribution



  Top Economics Site Contributor TalkMarkets Contributor Finance Blogs Free PageRank Checker Active Search Results Google+

This Web Page by Steven Hansen ---- Copyright 2010 - 2016 Econintersect LLC - all rights reserved